Antisemitism, as such, is not a criminal offence. The law does not punish people for holding thoughts or beliefs, however unpleasant these may be. The same applies to Holocaust denial and criticism of Israel.
It is only when people start to act on those thoughts or beliefs that the law steps in. It punishes actions rather than attitudes.
But the dividing line is not always clear and suspects may be allowed some leeway. A lot may depend on how prosecutors choose to exercise the discretion that the law gives them.
Some of the crimes committed by antisemites — such as assault — may be committed by anybody and for any reason. But if criminals are motivated by hatred of Jews, they may be be punished more severely than other offenders. This guide looks at some of the charges that may be brought against people who commit antisemitic acts.
But we begin with a warning. Many crimes are never investigated by the police. Many of the crimes that the police investigate never get as far as a prosecution. Many prosecutions collapse without anyone being convicted. And many convicted offenders receive sentences that their victims regard as lenient. Even if you have been the victim of an offence listed in this guide, you may feel that justice has not been done in your case. Campaign Against Antisemitism helps victims and witnesses of antisemitic incidents to secure justice.
One more warning: the law is very complicated and this guide has tried to make it easier to understand. In simplifying it, we have left out refinements and possible defences that may make all the difference in an individual case. We have shown you where to look for more information but you would be wise not to proceed without proper legal advice from a solicitor or barrister.
Next, we turn to how the law works. After that, we shall summarise the laws that can be used in cases of antisemitism.