Racially Aggravated Offences


Sometimes the news will report that an individual has been charged with a ‘racially aggravated assault’ or some other offence (a prominent example being John Terry), what does that mean?


Is it a separate offence?

There is no specific offence of ‘being racist’. Instead, in relation to certain common public order offences and offence of violence, Parliament, in the Crime and Disorder Act 1998  created racially aggravated versions that are more serious.


Which offences can be ‘racially aggravated’?

The following offences of violence :

  • Inflicting Grevious Bodily Harm – (a maximum sentence of 7 years instead of 5 for the non-racially aggravated offence)
  • ABH – (again, 7 years instead of 5)
  • Common Assault – (2 years instead of 6 months)

The following Public Order offences:

  • s4 or s4A Public Order Act (maximum 2 years instead of 6 months)
  • s5 Public Order Act (a Level 4 fine)
  • Criminal Damage (maximum 14 year sentence instead of 10)
  • And Harassment (maximum 7 years instead of 5 for the aggravated offence and 2 years instead of 6 months for the simple offence)

All of the above are either way (except for racially aggravated s5 which remains summary only).


What makes an offence racially aggravated?

There are two separate ways an offence can be racially aggravated:

(a) at the time of committing the offence, or immediately before or after doing so, the offender demonstrates towards the victim of the offence hostility based on the victim’s membership (or presumed membership) of a racial group; or

(b) the offence is motivated (wholly or partly) by hostility towards members of a racial group based on their membership of that group.

In some cases it is straightforward and there is a clear racial motive. Other cases can be more complicated. The fact that there were various motives for the offence, only one of which was racial, does not stop if being racially aggravated (see Johnson as an example).

The offences is given a broad meaning – using words such as “bloody foreigners” will make an offence racially aggravated (Rogers [2007] UKHL 8). The two ways above are alternatives, so the fact that there was no racial motivation, and the individual is ‘not racist’, is not a defence if racial words are used.

CPS guidance on racially aggravated offences can be found here.


Do you get a higher sentence?

Yes. The Judge should generally first ask themselves what the sentence should be if the offence was not racially aggravated. Then, an ‘uplift’ should be applied. There is no fixed formula, it all depends on all the circumstances.


What about religiously aggravated offences?

The definition was extended to include ‘religious group’ as well as racial groups in 2001.





2 thoughts on “Racially Aggravated Offences

  1. Sarah Bellsie

    I do not understand the ‘Racially Aggravated’ offenses, In my eyes it singles out certain groups of people and gives them groups more protection and rights than other groups of people.
    My concerns come from the court case of my partner, he was drink driving (which he should never have done) a car pulled out in front of him causing him to swerve hit a car and crash into a wall, the air bags exploded and my partner was knocked unconscious, when he came round he was being dragged by his head over the driver seat by 2 Asian men who were shouting abuse in an aggressive manor in a language he could not understand, my partner’s head was bleeding and he was in shock and didn’t understand what was happening as it happened so quick. Any ways he was physically dragged from the car over seats by his head and he was being verbally attacked in an unknown language, My partner’s first reaction was to phone me but the Asian men would not allow him to use his mobile which was snatched from him and broke and stamped upon then one of the Asian men started shouting in English ‘you smashed my fucking car’, My partner tried to stumble away from the hostile situation when he was punched in the stomach and the face and knocked off his feet and was kicked quite a few times from both men, my partner didn’t raise a hand but shouted of them to get stop, which they didn’t and my partner called them ‘paki bastards’ . Eventually the police arrived and my partner was physically dragged by the Asian men over to the police and he was arrested.
    My partner did not get taken to hospital or get seen by a doctor even though he had a cut on his forehead and had been involved in an accident, he gave a positive breath test and put in cells over night… Where was his duty of care?
    In the mean time the police gathered statements from the Asian men and when he was interviewed he was facing charges of Dangerous Driving, Driving under the influence of alcohol, Racial Attack by beating, Racial Abuse and Racial Harassment, he pleaded guilty to drink driving but not guilty to all the other charges. when he was being questioned he was asked by an officer if he had used the term ‘paki bastard’ which he admitted to and tried to explain why but he was cut off by more questions.
    I took him to the hospital 2 days later as one pupil was dilated much more to the other and he was sore and bruised around his ribs and back which the doctor confirmed that his injuries could not have been due to the crash and most likely a beating… none of this was ever used in court.
    This went to Crown Court where he was told that it would be better to plead guilty to dangerous driving as 5 witnesses had put statements in against my partner … these witnesses were all Asian men who claimed to see everything and he was pretty much told that he would be found guilty any ways but he would get a lesser sentence if he pleaded guilty so he did but he refused to plead guilty to any racist charges as he was the victim, eventually 2 racist charged got dropped but he had to plead guilty to a racially aggravated charge for using language that was directed at a race with intention to cause fear, he was told because he admitted on tape to the police officer to using the term ‘paki bastard’ that he was guilty so therefore he would have to plead guilty. The Barristers exact words were that the CPS want at least 1 racially aggravated charge and without a guilty plea his sentence would be longer, so again he was left with little choice and in May 2013 he was sentenced to 11 months in prison, he can’t apply for early release on tag because of the racist charge and in prison he is classed as high risk which restricts his privileges.
    He lost his £6500 per month off-shore job which he has been working his way up for the last 15 years, we have 3 dependent children and I suffer from POTS syndrome and I have not been able to work for the past 4 years and the judge did not take any of this into account even though the probation officer recommended a suspended sentence and a month prior to my partners court case a man walked free for dangerous driving, drink driving, driving whilst disqualified, assault on his partner, criminal damage to her property, threats to kill his previous partner and young son and assault for hitting a woman security guard who tried to help him from the crashed car, he got a 2 year suspended sentence and the judge called it a night of madness which was out of character and jail would be no good as he would lose his brick laying job. where is the justice? where are the equal rights? and why is everyone so afraid to fight false racist charges?
    My partner was guilty of drink driving and he should be punished fairly for this which would not have been a custodial sentence… he wouldn’t be deemed a racist… he would still be paying his taxes every month and supporting his family… My children would have their dad at home.
    I have never been racist against skin colour or religion but I can see that Labour are digging the UK’s grave as if your a white British person in Britain you have got no rights when in a dispute with any other race, culture or religion.

  2. Vivien Ahmed

    I am really sorry this bad luck happened. It all started with drink driving otherwise it could have been avoided. I believe all you say and feel the law unreasonably took the side of the Asian men who sound vindictive. There is a saying that the law is an ass and in this case because the law went by the rules you suffer unfairly. All because of drink driving, how things escalated. So sorry but I hope your husband never has a drink then drives again.


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