Runshaw College has become a third-party reporting centre for hate crime following an innovative research project.
It has been praised by Lancashire Constabulary for taking a lead on the issue.
The new initiative was revealed at Runshaw College’s fifth annual Public Services and Criminology Conference last week.
The event at Chorley’s town hall focused on hate crime and featured five guest speakers plus a staff and student team from Runshaw who gave a presentation on their research.
Former UCLan students Leigh Massam and Jennifer McGillivray, who are both now studying for degrees at UCLan, were joined by lecturers Bernice Taylor and Kim Hollin.
They outlined how their work looking at adolescent perceptions of hate crime and hate incidents had shown a weak understanding of what the terms hate crime and hate incident mean.
The majority of those questioned said they would rather report incidents to a third party reporting centre than the police. More than a fifth had been victims of hate crime or incidents.
The research was carried out at a local college and Youth Zone.
Around 150 people were asked what they understood by the term hate crime and hate incident and what were their experiences of hate crime. Around 22 per cent of those responding said they had been victims of hate crimes or incidents, while nearly 78 per cent had not. Nearly 38 per cent said they understood what hate crime is, but nearly 54 per cent said they only partly knew and 8.6 per cent said they didn’t know at all. Some 40.7 per cent said they did not understand what was meant by the term hate incidents, 41.4 per cent had partial understanding and nearly 18 per cent did understand.
When asked where they would report hate crime just 15.7 per cent said the police and 80 per cent opted for a third-party reporting centre. A total of 82 per cent respondents believed more needed to be done about reporting hate crime incidents.
It was while the research project was being discussed with Chief Inspector Ian Mills of Lancashire Constabulary that the team learned about how third-party reporting centres provide a direct opportunity for people to report hate crime.
The idea to set up a centre at Runshaw was put to senior management and the go-ahead was given.
Commenting on the research Kim said: “It’s a small example and just one geographical area in the north west. But we think these findings have been really important in helping us understanding what’s going on for young people in our area.”
Bernice said: “Hopefully more people will start to come forward and will be making a stand that this isn’t acceptable.”
Jennifer said: “You can’t have a voice unless you know the issues.”
Chief Inspector Ian Mills said: “It’s about widening the awareness of the topic and encouraging people – and people who witness victims – to report them.”
He praised the college for its third-party reporting initiative and its evidence-based research He said: “It’s the first college I know of which has done some evidence-based research into hate crime and established their own third party reporting centre as a result of the findings.”
Earlier Julie Naylor of Victim Support told the conference how hate crime takes different forms: “If you see something or somebody says something to you if it feels wrong it probably is. If it doesn’t feel right it probably isn’t right and you have this service at your disposal (third party reporting).”
Peter Lamb, Programme leader for the foundation degree in criminology and criminal justice noted a lack of public awareness regarding hate crime, and said: “It’s our duty as a college and as teaching practitioners to inform students and make them more socially aware as regards this pressing issue.”
• Some 380 students attended the conference. Speakers included Julie Naylor of Victim Support, Mel Close of Disability Equality North West, campaigners Adam Pearson and Sylvia Lancaster and 7/7 survivor Sudhesh Dahad.
• Hate crime is defined as "Any criminal offence which is perceived by the victim or any other person, to be motivated by hostility or prejudice based on a person’s race or perceived race; religion or perceived religion; sexual orientation or perceived sexual orientation; disability or perceived disability and any crime motivated by hostility or prejudice against a person who is transgendered or perceived to be transgender."