Racist crimes account for most hate crimes
There is no single universally agreed definition of hate crime. A hate crime is generally taken to mean any criminal act which is motivated by prejudice or hostility against groups of people that the victim represents. The group may be an ethnic group or a group based on sexual orientation. The victim does not necessarily have to be a member of the group. It is enough that the perpetrator assumes so. The victim may also be targeted because he or she has a close relationship with someone belonging to the group or some other connection to the group.
The act can be any criminal offence specified in Finnish legislation. What is critical is the motive behind the act. The act can be, for example, slander, discrimination, assault or criminal damage. A harsher sentence may be imposed when the motive for the act is the victim's race, skin colour, descent, national or ethnic origin, religion or conviction, sexual orientation, gender identity or disability.
Hate crimes decreased in 2018
A total of 70% of hate crimes reported to the police in Finland are racist crimes. Religion, disability, sexual orientation and gender identity also appear in police statistics as motives for hate crimes.
The Police University College publishes every year a study of hate crimes reported to the police. In 2018, the police recorded 910 reports of an offence that were defined as suspected hate crimes. Most crimes involved racist elements with the most common offence being assault.
In 2018, the number of hate crimes reported to the police decreased by 22 per cent compared to the previous year. The number decreased to the level of the longer time period that preceded the growth spike in 2015.
When looking at hate crime statistics, it is important to note that only a small percentage of offences are reported to the police. A study carried out a few years ago revealed that only around 20 per cent of hate crime victims reported the offence. Therefore, the police encourage people to always notify the police if they are the victim of a hate crime.
The Ministry of the Interior and the police are involved in the EU-funded Facts against Hate project, which encourages hate crime victims to report offences to the police. The project also aims to develop data collection related to hate crimes and hate speech.