Rape and Domestic Violence: The law criminalizes rape, spousal rape, and domestic violence. The maximum legal penalty for rape is life imprisonment. The law also provides for injunctive relief, personal protection orders, and protective exclusion orders (similar to restraining orders) for female victims of violence. The government enforced the law effectively in reported cases. Courts in some cases imposed the maximum punishment for rape. According to the ONS, the police recorded a total of 106,378 sexual offenses during the period of March 2015/16, of which 35,798 were for rape. This represented an increase of 21 percent in sexual offenses recorded by the police compared with the previous year, and a 22 percent increase in rape. The ONS stated the increase was due to improvements in the recording of sexual offenses by the police and an increased willingness of victims to report them. The PSNI reported the number of offenses investigated by its Rape Crime Unit topped 600 in 2014-15, an increase of 24 percent from the previous year. The PSNI also stated there were 28,465 incidents of domestic abuse in Northern Ireland in the year ending in June. Improvements in recording and a greater willingness of victims to come forward to report such crimes were believed to be the main causes for the higher numbers. The government provided shelters, counseling, and other assistance for survivors of rape or violence in the UK and Northern Ireland. It offered free legal aid to battered women who were economically dependent on their abusers.
Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C): The law prohibits FGM/C in the UK. The law also requires health and social care professionals and teachers to report to police cases of FGM/C on girls under 18 years of age. It is also illegal to take abroad a British national or permanent resident for FGM/C, or to help someone trying to do this. The penalty is up to 14 years in prison. An FGM Protection Order, a civil measure that can be applied for through a family court, offers the means of protecting actual or potential victims from FGM/C under the civil law. Breach of an FGM Protection Order is a criminal offense carrying a sentence of up to five years in prison.
Hospital providers and general practice doctors are obligated to collect data on all incidents of FGM/C for the Female Genital Mutilation Prevalence Dataset, including those already being treated and new cases.
In July the Health and Social Care Information Center published the first ever recorded figures for FGM/C, which showed 5,702 new cases in England between April 2015 and March 2016. Most of the women and girls were born in Africa and underwent the procedure there, but 43 girls were born in the UK and 18 of those had it done in the country. The true extent of the abuse was believed to be much higher, with the government estimating 170,000 women and girls in the UK had undergone the procedure. Wales, Northern Ireland, and Scotland did not collect figures on FGM/C.
Sexual Harassment: The law criminalizes sexual harassment. No further information was available.
For the first time, Nottinghamshire Police recorded harassment of women as a hate crime in an effort to tackle sexist abuse. The force defines misogyny hate crime as “Incidents against women that are motivated by an attitude of a man towards a woman and includes behavior targeted towards a woman by men simply because they are a woman.” The classification means individuals can report incidents that might not be considered a crime, and police will investigate and put in place support for victims.
Reproductive Rights: Couples and individuals have the right to decide the number, spacing, and timing of their children; manage their reproductive health; and have access to the information and means to do so, free from discrimination, coercion, or violence.
Discrimination: The law provides the same legal status and rights for women as for men. Women were subject to some discrimination in employment.
Birth Registration: A child born in the UK receives the country’s citizenship at birth if one of the parents is a UK citizen or a legally settled resident. Children born in Northern Ireland may opt for UK, Irish, or dual citizenship. A child born in an overseas territory is a UK overseas territories citizen if at least one of the child’s parents has citizenship. There are special provisions for granting citizenship to persons who might otherwise be stateless. All births must be registered within 42 days in the district where the baby was born, and unregistered births were uncommon.
Child Abuse: According to the ONS, police in England and Wales recorded 40,886 sexual offenses committed against children, including rape, assault and grooming offenses, in 2015-16.
In Scotland while the specific age of the victim cannot generally be determined from the data supplied by authorities, many of the sexual crime codes used by police to record crime make it clear when the victim was under age 18. By adding up all these crime codes, at least 43 percent of the 10,273 sexual crimes recorded in 2015-16 by police related to a victim under 18.
The number of child abuse referrals the PSNI recorded in 2015-16 was 4,723, an increase of 23 percent from 2014-15. As of June the charitable NGO National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC) stated the number of children on the child protection registry was 2,207. In June the NSPCC put the number of children on the child protection registry because of sex abuse at 142.
Social service departments in each local authority in the country maintained confidential child protection registers containing details of children at risk of physical, emotional, or sexual abuse or neglect. The registers also included child protection plans for each child. According to the NSPCC, at the end of March 2015 there were 52,625 children on child protection registers or subject to child protection plans in England and Wales. In Scotland there were 2,751 children on child protection registers in 2015. In Northern Ireland as of September, there were 2,262 children on the child protection register, representing a 5 percent increase on the previous year.
Early and Forced Marriage: The minimum legal age for marriage in the UK is 16. In England and Wales, persons under 18 and not previously married require the written consent of the parents or guardians, and the underage person must present a birth certificate. Forcing a UK citizen into marriage anywhere in the world is a criminal offense in England and Wales with a maximum prison sentence of seven years. In Scotland persons between 16 and 18 do not need parental consent to be married. In Northern Ireland persons under 18 need parental consent “or if appropriate an order of a court dispensing with consent.” In Bermuda the minimum age for marriage is 18.
The government’s Forced Marriage Unit (FMU) operated a helpline providing confidential support and advice to victims and professionals and conducted a nationwide outreach program with schools, social services, and police. In 2015 the FMU gave advice or support to 1,220 cases, of which 329 (27 percent) involved victims below 18 years of age; 427 (35 percent) involved victims ages 18-25. In 980 (80 percent) cases the victims were women or girls, and 240 cases (20 percent) involved male victims.
In Scotland the law provides for protection against forced marriage without free and full consent and for protecting persons who have been forced into marriage without such consent. The legal minimum age to enter into a marriage in Scotland is 16 and does not require parental consent.
The minimum age for marriage in Bermuda is 16 for both girls and boys.
Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C): See information for girls under 18 in women’s section above.
Sexual Exploitation of Children: The penalties for sexual offenses against children and the commercial sexual exploitation of children range up to life imprisonment. Released persons convicted of sexual offenses must register with police and notify police any time they change their name or address, or travel outside the UK.
Authorities identified 3,266 potential trafficking victims from 102 countries in 2015, compared with 2,340 the previous year.
The minimum age of consensual sex in the UK is 16. In Bermuda the legal minimum age for consensual sex is 16 for heterosexuals and lesbians and 18 for gay men.
International Child Abductions: The UK including Bermuda is party to the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction. Due to its distinct and separate legal system, Scotland has an independent body for handling Hague Convention cases and communicates directly with Hague Convention authorities. See the Department of State’s Annual Report on International Parental Child Abduction at travel.state.gov/content/childabduction/en/legal/compliance.html.
The 2011 census recorded the Jewish population of the UK as 263,346. Some considered this an underestimate, and both the Institute for Jewish Policy Research and the British Board of Deputies suggested that the actual figure was approximately 300,000.
The NGO Community Security Trust (CST) published a half-yearly report in August that recorded 557 incidents in the six months to June, an 11 percent increase in incidents compared with the same period in 2015. The CST stated, “This is the second highest incident total the CST has ever recorded for the January-June period, despite there being no discernible ‘trigger event’.” Anti-Semitic incidents in London recorded by the CST rose by 62 percent in the first six months of 2015 and 2016. In contrast, in Greater Manchester the number of reported anti-Semitic incidents fell by 54 percent.
The CST believed a combination of factors, including prominent and sustained public debate about anti-Semitism; increased use of social media by anti-Semites; and a general rise in racism and xenophobia in wider society all contributed to the increase in incidents. Civil society contacts criticized the UK government’s inability to prosecute perpetrators of hate crimes successfully.
During the year the Labour Party faced criticism for its members’ anti-Semitic acts and comments. In March the party suspended the membership of its vice-chairman in Woking, Surrey, for anti-Semitic Tweets. MP Naz Shah was temporarily suspended in April for comments made on her Facebook page in 2015 before she became an MP: Under an outline of Israel that was superimposed on a map of the U.S. with the headline “Solution for Israel-Palestine conflict–relocate Israel into United States,” Shah commented, “Problem solved.” Shah apologized in Parliament for the comment and then apologized to the members of a synagogue in her constituency and in an opinion piece in the Jewish News.
In April, Ken Livingstone, former MP and former London mayor, was suspended from the Labour Party for anti-Semitism. Livingstone, when asked about Shah, called her comments “rude” but said they were not anti-Semitic. He said it was important “not to confuse criticism of Israeli government policy with anti-Semitism.” He then suggested that Hitler was a Zionist, which led to his suspension.
On October 3, Labour Party activist Jackie Walker was removed from her post as vice-chairman of Momentum, the campaigning group supporting Labour Party Leader Jeremy Corbyn, following remarks in which she criticized the International Holocaust Remembrance Day and counterterrorism security at Jewish schools, although Momentum claimed that she had not said anything anti-Semitic. Walker was also suspended from the Labour Party and then readmitted in May despite claiming that Jews were the “chief financiers” of the African slave trade, a proposition described by the Legacies of British Slave Ownership project at University College, London, as based on “no evidence whatsoever.”
The Labour Party conducted two inquiries on anti-Semitism during the year. In February, Alex Chalmers, the cochairman of the Labour Club at Oxford University, resigned from his post because, he said, some on the club “have problems with the Jews.” After investigating this and other allegations, Baroness Janet Royall produced a report in May, which concluded that Oxford University Labour Club students had engaged in anti-Semitic acts.
In April, Corbyn announced the party would conduct an inquiry into anti-Semitism and other forms of racism perpetrated by members of the Labour Party, chaired by former Liberty Director Shami (now Baroness) Chakrabarti. Chakrabarti’s report in June concluded that the party was “not overrun” by anti-Semitism, Islamophobia, or other forms of racism, but that, “as with wider society,” there was evidence of “minority hateful or ignorant attitudes and behaviors festering within a sometimes bitter incivility of discourse.” It recommended a number of changes to the Labour Party’s disciplinary processes. The most controversial were that Labour members who are excluded from the party for anti-Semitism should not automatically be banned for life, and the proposal of a two-year statute of limitations for those members accused of “uncomradely conduct and language.” The Chakrabarti report was criticized for not referring to the Royal report.
Many Jewish civil society groups called the Chakrabarti report a “whitewash” about anti-Semitism, although some Jewish leaders welcomed the recommendations that Labour Party members curb anti-Semitic language. In September a dispute arose over whether Chakrabarti was given the title of Baroness in exchange for writing the report.
On October 16, Parliament’s Home Affairs Committee released a comprehensive, cross-party report on anti-Semitism in the UK, calling “on all political leaders to tackle the growing prevalence of anti-Semitism.” It “notes the failure of the Labour Party consistently to deal with anti-Semitic incidents in recent years…” The report stated Corbyn’s “lack of consistent leadership” on anti-Semitism created “a ‘safe space’ for those with vile attitudes towards Jewish people.” The Home Affairs Committee’s report also criticized the president of the National Union of Students, Malia Bouattia, for failing to take sufficiently seriously the problem of anti-Semitism on university campuses. The Home Affairs Committee’s report expressed particular concern at the volume and viciousness of anti-Semitism online, including countless examples directed at MPs.
To help address online hate crime more broadly, the Home Affairs Committee recommended that government and political parties adopt an amended definition of anti-Semitism aimed at promoting a zero-tolerance approach while allowing free speech on Israel and Palestine to continue. The committee stated that law enforcement and political party officials should consider the use of the word “Zionist” in an accusatory context inflammatory and potentially anti-Semitic.
On August 28, 13 Jewish graves were destroyed in Belfast, Northern Ireland. The PSNI investigated eight youths who knocked over headstones and in some cases used hammers to destroy markers. Officials condemned the incident, and local authorities offered assistance to rectify the damage.
Trafficking in Persons
The law provides for trafficking reparation orders to encourage the courts to use seized assets to compensate victims and prevention orders to restrict the activities of potential slave masters. Thousands of the UK’s biggest firms must reveal whether they have taken action to ensure they do not use child or slave labor (see section 7.b.).
See the Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report at www.state.gov/j/tip/rls/tiprpt/.
Persons with Disabilities
The law prohibits discrimination against persons with physical, sensory, intellectual, and mental disabilities in employment, education, air travel and other transportation, access to health care, the judicial system, and the provision of other government services. The government effectively enforced the law.
Britain’s equality watchdog, the EHRC, contended persons with disabilities were still treated as “second-class citizens,” because progress in promoting improvements by governments, businesses, and the wider community had stalled. The commission awaited a Supreme Court decision on a test case regarding the rights of wheelchair users on buses and criticized airlines for their treatment of customers with disabilities.
In the first ever disability discrimination lawsuit to be brought in the UK, the UK Supreme Court was considering the case of a wheelchair user refused access to public transport when a bus driver would not require a mother with a stroller to vacate a space designated for passengers with disabilities. The passenger argued the bus policy of “requesting, not requiring” passengers without disabilities to vacate spaces intended for passengers with disabilities constitutes disability discrimination.
Bermudian law protects the rights of persons with disabilities in the workplace. The law does not include any protection from discrimination on the grounds of mental health.
From March 2015 through March 2016 in Scotland, there were 201 recorded crimes connected to disability, an increase of 14 percent from the previous year. The PSNI recorded 70 hate crimes connected to disability from July 2015 through June 2016, a decrease of eight crimes from the previous year. The mandate of the EHRC includes work on behalf of persons with disabilities to stop discrimination and promote equality of opportunity. The EHRC provided legal advice and support to individuals, a hotline for persons with disabilities and employers, and policy advice to the government. It may also conduct formal investigations, arrange conciliation, require persons or organizations to adopt action plans to ensure compliance with the law, and apply for injunctions to prevent acts of unlawful discrimination.
The law prohibits racial and ethnic discrimination, but Travellers, Roma, and persons of African, Afro-Caribbean, South Asian, and Middle Eastern origin at times reported mistreatment on racial or ethnic grounds. In January the High Court ruled the government had illegally discriminated against Travellers by unlawfully subjecting planning applications from Roma and Travellers to special scrutiny.
Following the UK’s decision to leave the EU, NGOs reported a sharp rise in hate crimes. In the week before and the three weeks following the EU referendum, 6,193 hate crimes were reported to police in England, Wales, and Northern Ireland, a 20 percent increase on the first two weeks of July compared with the same period in 2015. Of those, 3,076 hate crimes and incidents were reported in June 16-30, an increase of 915, or 42 percent, compared with the same period in 2015. On June 25, the daily number of alleged offenses peaked at 289.
There was an increase in the number of racially or religiously aggravated offenses recorded in June, followed by an even sharper increase in July. The number of offenses declined in August but remained at a level higher than prior to the referendum. The number of racially or religiously aggravated offenses recorded by the police in July 2016 was 41 percent higher than in July 2015.
In England and Wales, police recorded 52,528 hate crimes in 2014-15, an increase of 18 percent compared with the previous year. Of these, 37,484 (84 percent) were racial hate crimes. On August 27, a gang of six teenage boys attacked a Pole, Arkadiusz Jozwik, in Harlow. Jozwik died from his injuries on August 29. The boys were arrested for the attack.
The home secretary announced a review of how police handle hate crime; HM Inspectorate of Constabulary was to analyze how forces in England and Wales respond. The home secretary announced also a hate crimes action plan for England and Wales, including an assessment of the level of other bullying in schools; action to tackle hate crime online, on public transport, and around the “night-time economy”; a fund of 2.4 million pounds ($3.0 million) for security measures at places of worship; and an allocation of 300,000 pounds ($371,000) to establish three projects to “explore innovative new ways” of tacking hate crime in local communities.
In 2015-16 Scottish police recorded 3,712 race crimes, a 3 percent decrease from the previous year and the lowest number recorded since 2003-04. In October a University of Strathclyde study found that one in three of the 500 black and minority ethnic Scots surveyed had experienced discrimination. In Northern Ireland from July 2015 to June 2016, the PSNI recorded 785 hate crimes connected to racism, a decrease of 101 crimes from the previous year.
In Bermuda arrests of black persons were disproportionately high. In 2015, 86 percent (2,284) of 2,651 persons arrested were black (excluding mixed race). According to the 2010 census, 54 percent of all residents described themselves as black. Among the Bermudian population, excluding foreign residents, 63 percent were black.
Acts of Violence, Discrimination, and Other Abuses Based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity
In Bermuda the legal minimum age for consensual sex is 16 for lesbians and 18 for gay men. The British territories of Anguilla, Bermuda, the British Virgin Islands, the Cayman Islands, Montserrat, the Turks and Caicos Islands, and the Bailiwick of Guernsey set different ages of consent for same-sex acts.
The law in England and Wales prohibits discrimination and harassment based on sexual orientation, although individuals reported sporadic incidents of homophobic violence. It encourages judges to impose a greater sentence in assault cases where the victim’s sexual orientation was a motive for the hostility, and many local police forces demonstrated an increasing awareness of the problem and trained officers to identify and moderate these attacks. In 2014-15 police in England and Wales recorded 5,597 hate crimes related to sexual orientation and 605 transgender hate crimes.
On October 4, the European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI) reported that intimidation, harassment, and violence might be an everyday reality for some lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) persons. LGBTI pupils experienced severe bullying in school and were not always supported by teachers.
In Scotland racial, sexual, or other discriminatory motivation may be an “aggravating factor” in crimes. Scottish law also criminalizes behavior that is threatening, hateful, or otherwise offensive at a regulated soccer match and penalizes any threat of serious violence and threats to incite religious hatred through the mail or the internet. Crime aggravated by sexual orientation was the second most common type of hate crime, with 1,020 charges reported in 2015-16, a 20 percent increase from 2014-15. Between March 2015 and March 2016, 30 charges were reported in Scotland with an aggravation of prejudice relating to transgender identity.
In Northern Ireland from October 2015 to September 2016, the PSNI recorded 195 hate crimes related to homophobia, of which 10 were transphobic crimes. This represented a decrease of 30 homophobic crimes and three transphobic crimes compared with the previous year. In October an appeal court upheld a decision that the owners of Ashers bakery discriminated based on sexual orientation by refusing an order from a gay customer. They were ordered to pay 500 pounds ($618) in damages to the individual. In December the bakery announced it would appeal the decision to the Supreme Court. In July, NGO representatives cited difficulties in gaining access to adequate health care and a lack of LGBTI awareness in schools. In May the Northern Ireland Executive lifted the ban on gay persons’ donating blood.
Other Societal Violence or Discrimination
According to ECRI considerable intolerant political discourse focused on immigration and contributed to increasing xenophobic sentiments. Certain politicians and some policies portrayed Muslims in a negative light. Their alleged lack of integration and opposition to “fundamental British values” was a common theme adding to a climate of mistrust and fear of Muslims. Hate speech in some traditional media, particularly tabloid newspapers, continued to be a problem, with dissemination of biased or ill-founded information that might contribute to perpetuating stereotypes.
Offenses linked to victims’ religion increased by 43 percent from 2013-14 to 3,254. In Scotland there were 581 charges with a religious aggravation in 2015-16, a 3-percent increase compared with the previous year. The PSNI recorded 18 hate crimes motivated by religion from July 2015 to June 2016, a decrease of 13 crimes from the previous year. During the same period, the PSNI recorded 874 sectarian crimes in Northern Ireland, a decrease of 207. The number of sectarian incidents was 1,208, a decrease of 340 incidents.
On October 4, ECRI reported, “The specific incitement to hatred provisions are almost never applied. The significant difference between hate crime recorded by police and offenses referred for prosecution indicate that a large amount of hate crime goes unpunished.”