The Law of Antisemitism

Justice, justice, you shall pursue
צדק צדק תרדף


Antisemitism is a hateful ideology. If you have witnessed an antisemitic incident — or you have been a victim of antisemitism yourself — the chances are that you will want the perpetrator brought to justice. This guide tells you how the law can help. It applies only to England and Wales.

We want this advice to be as accurate and up-to-date as possible. If you think we have made an error or missed some relevant information, please e-mail [email protected].

What you should do

If the incident is still going on, your first concern should be for your personal safety and for the safety of those around you.

In an emergency, call the police on 999. The police have greater powers of arrest than you do, and more resources. In non-urgent cases, call your local police on 101.

If it is safe to do so, try to gather evidence of the incident. Perhaps you can take photos or record videos on your smartphone. If the incident is over, dictate what you can remember of it as soon as possible using your phone’s audio or video app. Failing that, take written notes and make sure you include the date and time your notes were made. Be sure you know how to take a screenshot of your computer or phone so that you can preserve any pages or messages that might otherwise be deleted.

There is an app called Self Evident that can help you do this. It helps you record evidence on your phone and send reports to the police. It also helps victims and witnesses of hate crime to receive specialist support (but only in London and Sussex at the moment).

You should also report antisemitic incidents to the CST; as well to as Shomrim if the incident took place in Barnet or Hackney.

What happens next?

If an offender is to be brought to justice, you may have to make a statement to the police in due course. You may then be asked to give evidence in court. If the offender is found guilty, it will be for the court to pass sentence.

Instead of asking you to make a written statement, the police may interview you and record your evidence. If the offender is charged, your evidence will be passed to the defendant’s lawyers and will be seen by the defendant. Your name will be included but not your address or other contact details.

Is antisemitism a crime?

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.