'˜We need city hate crime unit' say campaigners

CAMPAIGNERS against racism have criticised a council's decision to scrap a hate crime unit to save money just weeks after a severed pig's head was tied to the gates of a Muslim school.

Tuesday, 15th March 2016, 7:52 am
Updated Tuesday, 15th March 2016, 7:54 am

At a pro-refugee Stand Up to Racism meeting last night, speakers said they were shocked councillors at Portsmouth City Council voted in measures to cut the council’s Hate Crime Prevention Service to save £100,000.

The service offers advice, help and support to protected religious groups, disabled people and those from the LGBT community. It will close at the end of the month. The decision came less than three weeks after a severed pig’s head with a Swastika carved into it was tied to the gates of the Madani Academy, in Lake Road, Landport, in January.

Speaking about the closure, Stand Up to Racism chairman Simon Magorian told a packed meeting in Portsmouth Central Library, ‘This is giving out a very, very bad message.’

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Sandra Charles, who works in the unit, said: ‘Where do the victims of hate crime go now? They (the council) say it is a police duty but all they can do is turn up and take a statement. They don’t give support or advocacy.’

Ms Charles was speaking in a personal capacity as Portsmouth City Unison branch equal opportunities officer. She added: ‘It was easily accessible, we could be contacted online and on the phone.

‘It really, really did work. The people who came forward were really grateful.

‘There was a need then and there still is a need today for the service.’

A role visiting schools to ‘nip hate crime in the bud and promote community cohesion’ has also gone.

Portsmouth City Council leader, Cllr Donna Jones, told The News she was unable to comment. The loss of the hate crime unit is part of the council’s £11m budget cuts, unveiled in December because of a drop in funding from central government.

There were fears last night there may have been a repeat of the ugly scenes in November when a Stand Up to Racism rally descended into chaos when members of anti-immigration groups clashed with pro-asylum campaigners.

Police made their presence felt last night but the only incident was after the meeting when there was some jeering from a group of people outside the Wetherspoon’s pub, in Guildhall Walk, towards Stand Up to Racism members.