Hate crime is generally understood as crime and abuse that is motivated or shaped by prejudice or group hatred. This tends to include prejudice on the grounds of race, religion, ethnicity, gender, sexuality and disability. Hate crime is also referred to as targeted crime, bias crime and prejudice-related crime.

Some different definitions of hate crime include:

  • ‘A crime committed as an act of prejudice’ (F. Lawrence Punishing Hate: Bias Crimes Under American Law 1999, p. 9).
  • 'Crime wholly or partly motivated by, grounded in, or aggravated by bias or prejudice towards particular groups of people’ (G. Mason ‘Hate Crime Laws in Australia: Are they achieving their goals?’ Criminal Law Journal 2009 vol. 33 p. 327).
  • ‘“Hate” crime is not really about hate, but about bias or prejudice … essentially hate crime refers to criminal conduct motivated by prejudice’ (J Jacobs & K Potter Hate Crimes: Criminal Law and Identity Politics 1998 p 11).
  • ‘Any hate incident, which constitutes a criminal offence, perceived by the victim or any other person, as being motivated by hate or prejudice’(UK Home Office Police Standards Unit & Association of Chief Police Officers, Hate Crime: Delivering a Quality Service March 2005 p 9).
  • ‘Crime that manifests evidence of prejudice based on race, religion, sexual orientation or ethnicity’ (US Hate Crime Statistics Act 1990).
  • 'Even though the word "hate crime" has caught on in some quarters it is a rather slippery concept. ... [T]he one common characteristic that we can be sure about is that "hate crimes" hurt more than parallel crimes: this is borne out by the experiences of victims...' (P Iganski 'Hate Crime' and the City 2008 p 1, 20).
  • 'If there is no one definition, but merely a series of common denominators, how do we identify hate crime? It attempts to re-create simultaneously the threatened (real or imagined) hegemony of the perpetrator’s group and the “appropriate” subordinate identity of the victim’s group. It is a means of marking both the Self and Other in such a way as to re-establish their ‘proper’ relative positions, as given and reproduced by broader ideologies and patterns of social and political inequality’ ( B Perry, In the Name of Hate: Understanding Hate Crimes 2001 p 10).