As we mark this year’s National Hate Crime Awareness Week (14th – 21st October) this is an important time for local communities, local authorities and local police services to come together to raise awareness of Hate Crime.
Hate crime is a subject that has long concerned me, both as a lawyer and as an MP. It has absolutely no place in our society and since being appointed Solicitor General I have made tackling hate crime one of my priorities.
Hate crime isn’t new. It’s been going on for years. We have developed our response to it over time and have some of the toughest laws in the world to protect people, but the police need to know that these crimes are happening, and they need to be reported before action can be taken. While there have been more prosecutions than ever before, there are still many incidents that go unreported and too many victims are suffering in silence.
Work is already going on across the country to tackle these problems. Last year, a Hate Crime Action Plan was published, which included £2.4 million in funding. The Government has already allocated £900,000 to support the many charities and groups working tirelessly for the cause.
I will continue to work hard to improve prosecutions for hate crime. it is utterly unacceptable that people should suffer abuse or attacks because of a disability, their sexuality or ethnic background. We must stand together against hate crime and ensure that it is stamped out. We need to ensure that victims of hate crimes are confident that these offences will be investigated and prosecuted and that they are properly supported throughout this process.
On Saturday, I joined Swindon’s Tamil Community to celebrate the Hindu festival of Deepavali at an event held at New College. Also known as Diwali, the Festival of Lights is one of the most significant in the Indian Culture and is celebrated by Hindus, Sikhs and Jains around the world.
A whole programme of music and dance was performed by special guests and local children at the event and I particularly enjoyed watching the talented children of Tamil Sunday School as they performed songs and danced South Indian Bharatanatyam routines.
On Monday, I returned to New College to attend a Politics Day. The aim of this cross-party event was to encourage young people’s interest and understanding of politics. I dealt with a whole range of subjects with students including housing – affordability for first-time buyers and private renting, education, my work dealing with criminal sentences and also Brexit. I am always keen to help ensure that young people have access to information about our system of Government so I was delighted to have yet another opportunity.
The future is looking more promising for young people in Swindon. Since first becoming your MP back in 2010, 11,400 new apprenticeships have been started in the town - 5,380 of those were in my constituency of South Swindon. The Conservative Party has recently announced a freeze on tuition fees and official employment figures released in last month show that there are now a record number of people in work across the country, the highest level since records began in 1971. The strength of the economy means that more young people than ever are able to find work and start to fulfil their aspirations.