In October 2018, the Metropolitan Police launched a £1.5 million campaign with aims to prevent hate crimes. Advertisements included photos and videos demonstrating perpetrators in action as well as outlining the law. With a costly operation and vast effort to make a difference in society, many would query as to why many hate crimes get passed off as freedom of speech, and with recent in events in Uxbridge, this has been proven.

On the 5th April, a day in which many children finished for their Easter Holidays, a group of adults gathered near to Uxbridge’s Intu Shopping Centre, chanting controversial opinions and tying them to religion. Hundreds of people witnessed the event, with numerous secondary school students passionately opposing the hate, and many being deeply offended by comments relating to race, religion and sexual orientation. CPS defines hate crime as “when someone is hostile to another person because of their disability, nationality, race, religion, sexual orientation or transgender identity [showed via] intimidation, harassment, damaging property or violence”. Many witnesses of the event have expressed feeling intimidated, but the demonstration was regarded as freedom of speech when police were called.

This leads us to ask, when does public hate reach the extent of a crime as a pose to performing a human right?

Recently, Bobby Norris from reality programme ‘The Only Way Is Essex’ launched a petition to ‘Make Online Homophobia a Specific Criminal Offence’. The UK Government and Parliament Petitions website states that petitions much reach 100,000 signatures in order to be debated in parliament, which this has. Though, despite it’s great cause and obvious interest, how can the UK introduce new laws when face-to-face incidents are not always addressed appropriately?

Despite this, statistics from the Home Office stated that from 2017/18, there were 94,098 hate crimes offences were recorded across England and Wales, a 17% increase from the previous year. Thus, we could conclude that similar events to those in Uxbridge are increasingly being treated as crimes.

An actress from popular soap ‘Emmerdale’ Shila Iqbal, was sacked not long ago due to ‘racist’ comments she made at the age of 18. Her comments, posted on twitter, were posted lawfully and she was using her freedom of speech, but due to their nature she has lost a great opportunity. Twitter did not act when Iqbal posted the comments, so is it up to employers to take action? Should the protestors in Uxbridge be exposed to their employers because of their actions?

For now however, the line between freedom of speech and specific hate crimes is ambiguous, and those expressing hateful opinions are in fact still being lawful.