‘You get so belittled’ - spike in hate crime in Norfolk after Brexit vote

Marie-Lyse Numuhoza speaking at the Holocaust Memorial Day Service at St Peter Mancroft Church in 20

Marie-Lyse Numuhoza speaking at the Holocaust Memorial Day Service at St Peter Mancroft Church in 2019. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY - Credit: Copyright: Archant 2019

In the 10 days following the 2016 Brexit vote, Norfolk police saw an 80pc increase in reports of hate crime.

MP Clive Lewis. PICTURE: Jamie Honeywood

MP Clive Lewis. PICTURE: Jamie Honeywood - Credit: Archant

It was a spike that echoed the national trend, with, from 2016 to 2018, all but two of Norfolk's local authority districts seeing an increase in reports of race-related hate crime in particular.

In Broadland, reports almost doubled, and increased by 90pc over the two-year period.

The highest number of reports were received in Norwich, which saw an overall increase of 19pc between 2016 and 2018.

Julie Inns, equality, diversity and citizens in policing manager for Norfolk Constabulary, which alongside Norfolk County Council heads up the Stop Hate In Norfolk (SHiN) campaign, said while Norfolk was not a county with high instances of hate crime, it has felt the effects of the EU referendum.

She said: 'In the 10 days after the vote there was an 80pc spike in hate crime in Norfolk. While that 80pc is a huge amount, it was mirrored across the country. The vote has had a massive impact on people's lives.

'I am sure a lot of people thought 'the country has voted and because the country voted to leave all bets are off', and all the hidden feelings came to the surface.'

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Since 2016, reports of race-related hate crime have risen by an average of 23.4pc across Norfolk.

The only districts not to see an increase were north Norfolk, which reported an average of 22 crimes per year between 2016 and 2018, and south Norfolk, where there were an average of 36 a year.

Julie Inns, equality and diversity advisor for Norfolk Constabulary.

Julie Inns, equality and diversity advisor for Norfolk Constabulary. - Credit: Archant

'People think sleepy old Norfolk, but when we see these terrorism attacks happening we see a spike in reports [of hate crime],' Ms Inns said. 'After the New Zealand attack things started to go up and it's slowly returning to a more normal level.

'As we get closer to the date [of Brexit] those feelings are going to be bubbling back up again.'

Marie-Lyse Numuhoza, 37, a living well connector from Norwich, said she had experienced racism since moving to the county from London in 2013, and had seen an increase in incidents since 2016.

She said it included comments in public spaces to unconscious bias.

Ms Numuhoza, who previously worked as a carer, said: 'Every time I went to work in the care homes, they wouldn't go beyond my colour. I get taken as if I'm stupid, as if don't understand what I'm doing.

'You get so belittled to the point where your self-esteem [is affected]. When I was in London I used to hold speeches in parliament, I was a team manager, I supervised a team of eight people and I managed a program which covered 11 boroughs of London.'

She said while she wanted to focus on the positives, she didn't want to 'brush the negatives under the carpet', and said she was 'really worried' about Brexit and what happened next.

But she said, as a community, we should focus on the positives that individuals bring.

Amoros Ruhumliza, 45 and from Norwich, said he had seen discrimination against black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) communities.

'People are dying in silence here,' he said. 'I know many people who don't want to say what they have faced. [People] don't understand at all, I think to some extent you need to be that person to feel those prejudices.'

He said he felt the key to ending discrimination was encouraging communities to work together, and said: 'Communities need to engage and councils need to take a huge part in that and starting those conversations and embracing those communities.'

Clive Lewis, MP for Norwich South, said the referendum and its aftermath had 'emboldened' people with 'unpleasant views'.

'No-one should have to put up with abuse like this and I would urge police and all relevant authorities to take this extremely seriously and for everyone and to call out racist behaviour whenever and wherever it occurs,' he said. 'We are one humanity and an insult to one of us is an insult to all.'

His counterpart in Norwich North, Chloe Smith, agreed, describing the figures as 'worrying'.

'Regardless of any issues of the day, there's never any call for racism or other abuse,' she said.

'Norwich is generally a great place to live and we can all help it stay that way by quite simply being good human beings to each other.'

Norwich Norfolk Conservative MP Chloe Smith Photo : UK Parliament

Norwich Norfolk Conservative MP Chloe Smith Photo : UK Parliament - Credit: UK Parliament

The importance of reporting hate crime

Police have urged people to report all hate incidents and crimes so officers can understand the full extent of the problem.

Ms Inns said a hate crime was where a criminal offence had taken place, while a hate incident was an act which may or may not be a criminal offence, but is perceived to be motivated by prejudice or hate.

She said reporting all instances of both was helpful to police, who were then able to build a picture of the scale of the problem.

'[Hate crime] rarely starts at the serious end of the scale, it normally starts down at the non-criminal level,' Ms Inns said.

'We absolutely take [reports] seriously we will believe you and wherever we can do something about it and get a successful outcome.'

Hate incidents and crime can be reported to police in person, online or via 999 or 101. Incidents and crimes can also be reported via third party groups.

Market stall holders

Market stall holders and traders said while they regularly heard customers talking about Brexit, they had not noticed a negative change in atmosphere.

Jazz Singh, the owner of Indian Feast on Norwich Market, said he had noticed the Stand Up to Racism protest outside City Hall last month, but had not seen any other trouble.

He said: 'The increase surprises me. It doesn't worry me. I haven't seen anything personally but I hear people talking about Brexit.'

And Thidar Wilson, who works on the Orient Express stall on the market, said: 'For me, [since the referendum] nothing has really changed.

'I come to work the same as before Brexit and now it's still the same.

'I'm not really surprised [by the figures] though.'

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