VICTIMS of race-hate crime in North Yorkshire are being asked to share their experiences with a team devoted to supporting them.
The Hate Crime Scrutiny Panel, which includes representatives from the police and the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS), has made bringing bigots to justice its top priority and, since being launched in West Yorkshire, has seen a rise in prosecutions.
Now its members are looking to compile a true picture of race, religious, gender, sexual orientation and disability hate crime in North Yorkshire, and are looking for those who have been targeted and groups which help them to volunteer to be part of the panel's expansion.
Among its chief aims will be to develop strategies to combat and respond to such hostile offences and improve the way victims are supported and kept informed after making a complaint.
Rob Turnbull, chief crown prosecutor for North Yorkshire, said the CPS had prosecuted 93 cases of race or religiously-motivated crime, ten of homophobic crime and two of disability hate crime in 2007-08.
However, he said: "At the moment, we just don't really know how much of this sort of crime there is in North Yorkshire. But if it is happening, we want to know about it so we can assess the scale of the problem. That's why we're appealing for people who have some interest in this issue, whether they have been victims or are involved with support groups, to bring their perspective to the table.
"The aim is also to help us respond better to this type of crime. The panel looks at cases which have been dealt with and we want to search for learning points how good the investigation was, whether we could have done more and how we communicated with victims and witnesses.
"We do think more can be done and hate crime is a top priority for us it's a very damaging type of crime because of the fear it puts into victims.
"We want people to be confident about reporting it and being treated with respect."
Since the panel was set up, the number of hate crimes prosecuted in West Yorkshire has risen from 490 in 2004-05 to 689 in 2007-08, with the success rate climbing from 77.4 per cent to 90 per cent during the same period.
"It's inevitable that, if it is easier for people to report these crimes and they are more confident about doing so, these figures will increase," said Mr Turnbull.
* For more information about the panel, phone the CPS' equality, diversity and community involvement manager Lizzy Mills on 0113 290 2844 or email Lizzy.Mills@cps.gsi.gov.uk.
The Press, 16th February 2009