The Police Service of Northern Ireland hosted their first multi-agency hate crime seminar to illustrate and share practice about the range of work being been done to address hate crime issues across Northern Ireland.
ACC Stephen Martin, who is the organisational lead for hate crime, opened the event held at Newforge.
He said; “In 2014, following a rise in the incidence of hate crime the PSNI launched a range of operational measures to deal more effectively with what is a very serious issue. Because the victims are in a minority, the impact of these crimes is much more keenly felt, can be long lasting and has a much wider resonance than just with the victim and their immediate family. Hate Crime is a strategic priority for PSNI and I am extremely encouraged by the commitment of our partner agencies who work so hard with us to tackle prejudice and ignorance in our society. I truly believe that there is more confidence now for members of the public to report these incidents to police.
He continued; “However, we must not be complacent. We all recognise that there is still so much to do to confront hate crime and it is vital we continue to work closely with our partners and voluntary sector organisations. Collectively we need to send a strong message that Hate Crime is not acceptable, and where it occurs, seek to catch those responsible and place them before the courts.”
Following the opening address Denise Wright, Race Relations Manager from South Belfast Roundtable and former PSNI Assistant Chief Constable Jonathan McIvor took to the stage to discuss working with the Syrian refugees.
Jonathan McIvor, who is Director of Siren Associates said; “For over two years former PSNI officers, as part of a British Embassy funded project implemented by Siren Associates, a Northern Ireland not for profit organisation, have been working to create safe and secure environments for Syrian Refugees in camps in Jordan in partnership with International Organisations. The process of integrating vulnerable Syrian Refugees into our communities here will require understanding, generosity and a commitment to valuing diversity. Some of the learning from that experience is helping to inform the process of receiving refugees into Northern Ireland.”
Kerry Malone, Probation Board NI Area Manager, said “PBNI value the ongoing multi-agency partnership working and welcome the opportunity to present at the Hate Crime Seminar. PBNI address all aspects of abusive behaviours outlined under hate crime legislation through the provision of professional analysis in pre-sentence assessment and evidence based, effective intervention during supervision. PBNI are committed to changing lives for safer communities”.
Jolena Flett from the Migrant Centre NI spoke about the hate crime advocacy services and said; “We are encouraged by events like this that give the community and the PSNI the opportunity to come together and share learning and improve services to victims.”
Eva Grosman, CEO Centre for Democracy and Peace Building and co-founder of Unite Against Hate campaign added; “The Unite Against Hate campaign aims to raise awareness of hate crime among the general public, address under-reporting of hate crime and promote the benefits of diversity among people in Northern Ireland. Our work would not be possible without the ongoing support from the key partners, including the PSNI. The Police Service was the main driver behind the original UAH campaign and continues to lead the way in addressing and improving response to hate crime across NI.”
ACC Martin concluded; “I remain convinced that hate crime will only be resolved with a co-ordinated, multi-agency approach. Together with our partner agencies we will continue to work closely and engage with our most vulnerable communities, increase confidence and ensure that Northern Ireland is a welcoming place for those who are forced to flee their homes. We would ask the community to assist us in that effort.”