Published: 00:01, 25 August 2017 |
Updated: 09:50, 25 August 2017
Cases of hate crime are on the up in the county, prompting the launch of a campaign to help stamp it out. Reporter Ed McConnell found out more...
Staff at Chilli Hut went about serving customers, blissfully unaware that a career criminal was about to put a downer on their evening.
Reeking of booze and spoiling for a fight, Darren Turpin burst into the Tonbridge takeaway, telling one employee to go back to her "own country" and performing a Nazi salute.
It was spring 2015, and he was fined £50.
A year later came the Brexit campaign, which split the country in half.
Now, two years on, outdated displays of ignorance similar to Turpin's are somehow more common.
At least part of the reason is the vote to leave the EU, with some police forces experiencing a two-fold increase in hate crime in the months following the referendum.
Kent saw the seventh highest increase across the country (60%) with 277 offences logged between July and September.
Now the crown prosecution service (CPS) has launched the week-long #hatecrimematters campaign to show it is determined to stamp out such offending in all its forms.
One of its more recent examples occurred at Folkestone Mosque last month, with worshippers forced to barricade themselves in after an infuriated Dan Morrison stripped naked and sang "I'm Catholic till I die" outside.
Just a year ago, Morrison would have got off with a suspended sentence, but now, due to tougher laws, he will spend six months behind bars.
His was one of 45 sentences to be 'uplifted' this year.
The latest figures show 341 cases of hate crime – which covers any offence motivated by race, religion, gender, sexuality or disability – were recorded in Kent in 2015/16.
There were 293 convictions in the same period, which was an increase of 25% on the year before.
While 83% were racially or religiously motivated, the CPS has warned against overlooking other types of discrimination which may not appear as prevalent.
There were just 26 recorded cases of disability hate crime in 2015/16, but the CPS thinks the reason for this is that victims are less likely to come forward.
The circumstances are often just as repulsive, as was seen in November when Margate’s Jason Savage was handed a 120-day suspended sentence for spitting in a disabled RAF veteran’s face and in June when Kerrie Vant, of Snodland, was given community service after spouting vile abuse at a terminally ill schoolgirl.
Through issuing new prosecuting guidelines, statements on what hate crime is and a determination to treat online abuse as seriously as that experienced in public, the CPS hopes victims will recognise its commitment to tackling abuse and that such behaviour has no place in modern society.
Jaswant Narwal, chief prosecutor for the CPS in the south east, explained how her life had been affected by such instances and why the #hatecrimematters campaign is a force for good.
She said: “The increase in the number of convictions for hate crime in Kent shows how much of a priority tackling this type of crime is for us.
“It has an appalling effect on the victims and society and I know only too well from my own experiences over the years what it feels like to be the victim of ignorance and hatred.
“I was born here and I’ve lived here all my life, yet I still get comments from people telling me to go home, simply because of the colour of my skin.
“That’s why hate crime is something I’m determined to tackle, as no-one should have to change their way of life or live in fear.
“I want to get the message across to people that being different is not a crime.
"We should all celebrate our differences, as hating others only starts with hating yourself first.”
She added: “I hope that the launch of these documents will give people more confidence to come forward and report any hate crime they are experiencing.
“I can assure any victims in Kent that they will be taken seriously and given the support they need.”
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