The term ‘hate crime’ refers to criminal offences that are committed against people primarily because of their group affiliation and are motivated by hate based on race, nationality, ethnic origin, sexual orientation or any similar factor. The victim becomes interchangeable as the crime is intended to intimidate not only one particular person but the entire community that shares the same attributes as the victim.Our current research project explores the procedures involved in the identification, classification, prosecution and statistical documentation of hate-motivated crimes and, and in so doing, will take a closer look at the quantitative and qualitative nature of this phenomenon.

Re­search top­ic:

The concept of “hate crime” was first coined in the United States in the 1980s. Hate crime de­scribes a crim­in­al phe­nomen­on that is of con­tem­por­ary sig­ni­fic­ance for so­ci­et­ies all around the world, as it en­com­passes un­law­ful con­ducts of in­tim­id­a­tion or phys­ic­al per­se­cu­tion dir­ec­ted at a wide ar­ray of dif­fer­ent tar­get groups (Jen­ness/Broad, 1997). Such of­fences are com­mit­ted against people primar­ily be­cause of their group af­fil­i­ation and are mo­tiv­ated by hate or dis­dain based on na­tion­al­ity, eth­nic ori­gin, sexu­al ori­ent­a­tion or any sim­il­ar char­ac­ter­ist­ic of the vic­tim. To date there is however still no uni­ver­sally ac­cep­ted defin­i­tion of what ac­tu­ally con­sti­tutes ‘hate crime’ and how this phe­nomen­on is to be ul­ti­mately defined. Schol­ars however agree that what makes a crime a ‘hate crime’, is mainly the ex­ist­ence of bi­as or pre­ju­dice against an in­di­vidu­al based on someone’s real or per­ceived group mem­ber­ship or iden­tity. The vic­tim be­comes thereby in­ter­change­able as the crime is in­ten­ded to in­tim­id­ate not only one par­tic­u­lar per­son but to send a mes­sage that im­poses a sub­or­din­ate and in­feri­or status to the en­tire com­munity that shares the same at­trib­utes as the vic­tim. Hate crime is hence con­sidered an af­front against the con­sti­tu­tion­al, demo­crat­ic and plur­al­ist­ic sys­tem (Schneider, 2003).

The Ger­man ad­apt­a­tion of the hate crime concept is closely in­spired by the Amer­ic­an defin­i­tion of this phe­nomen­on. The term “hate crime” was first ex­pli­citly in­tro­duced in­to the Ger­many’s crim­in­al policy in Janu­ary 2001, when the Fed­er­al Min­istry of the In­teri­or in­tro­duced the concept as part of the re­formed po­lice re­gis­tra­tion sys­tem. Hate crimes are since ad­dressed as “polit­ic­ally mo­tiv­ated of­fences” and labeled as such, if: “…in the as­sess­ment of the cir­cum­stances of the crime and/or at­ti­tude of the per­pet­rat­or, there is reas­on to sus­pect that the act was dir­ec­ted against a per­son be­cause of his or her na­tion­al­ity, “race”, ori­gin, eth­ni­city, skin col­or, phys­ic­al ap­pear­ance, sexu­al ori­ent­a­tion, dis­ab­il­ity, re­li­gion or so­cial status and the of­fence is thus in a caus­al re­la­tion­ship to this” (Bundeskrim­in­alamt, 2004). Due to the in­tro­duc­tion of com­pre­hens­ive defin­i­tion cri­ter­ia, as well as un­an­im­ously agreed and stand­ard­ized pro­ced­ures, the re­newed sys­tem was to en­sure na­tion­wide stand­ards of re­gis­tra­tion.

Re­search aims:

Our cur­rent re­search pro­ject ana­lyzes quant­it­at­ive and qual­it­at­ive case-based in­form­a­tion, as well as data from ex­pert in­ter­views in or­der to pro­duce a fol­low-up study on how sus­pec­ted hate crime cases pro­gress in the Ger­man crim­in­al justice sys­tem. As such, the study will fo­cus on the de­vel­op­ment of the concept of hate crime and the defin­i­tion pro­cesses which are em­ployed in or­der to clas­si­fy such of­fences.

It is the aim of this study to ex­plore the char­ac­ter­ist­ics of re­gistered hate crime in Ger­many, to dis­cov­er the core ele­ments which lead to such an as­sess­ment, and to dis­cuss prob­lems the po­lice and pro­sec­u­tion ser­vices face when try­ing to es­tab­lish a “hate” motive. The ana­lys­is con­siders the pre-tri­al in­vest­ig­a­tion of the po­lice and keeps track on how the po­lice-defined “con­struct” of a biased-mo­tiv­ated of­fence is taken in­to ac­count by the pro­sec­u­tion and in the fi­nal sen­ten­cing.

Meth­ods:

Due to the com­plex­ity of the top­ic area a com­bin­a­tion of re­search meth­ods are ap­plied. The first step is an ana­lys­is of hate-mo­tiv­ated of­fences by draw­ing on in­form­a­tion from a sample of pro­sec­u­tion files. The sample in­cludes all vi­ol­ent hate crimes that were iden­ti­fied by the po­lice in the re­gion of Baden-Württem­berg from 2004-2008. Vari­ables in­clude ele­ments of the crime, char­ac­ter­ist­ics of vic­tims and of­fend­ers, as well as pro­sec­u­tion out­comes. The case-file ana­lys­is is sup­por­ted by ex­pert in­ter­views with prac­ti­tion­ers from the po­lice and the pub­lic pro­sec­u­tion ser­vice in or­der to ob­tain first-hand in­sights in­to the struc­tures and the ju­di­cial hand­ling of hate crimes in Ger­many.