Shocking Reality of Hate Crime for Those Working at Night

Saquib MajeedPeople working at night, particularly in jobs in retail, door security, takeaway food and taxis, are particularly vulnerable to hate crime. Research shows that a significant proportion of hate incidents occur in and around Scotland’s city centres at night, with Asian workers disproportionately targeted for abuse and assault.

As Police Scotland launches a campaign to encourage those employed in these sectors to report hate incidents, founder and President of the Scottish Ethnic Private Hire Welfare Association, Muhammed Saqib Majeed, spoke about his own shocking experiences of hate crime.

“It starts with slagging verbally and ends up in physical abuse, trying to hit you,” said Sadiq, who has been driving taxis in Glasgow since 1999. “They are sitting behind you, they try and grab you by the neck. I had an incident like that. I guy grabbed me by the seat belt. I was lucky enough to be able to release the seat belt in time. That’s why taxi drivers are exempted from wearing a seat belt when working.

“If you’re outside your car, you can run for your life. But they’ll take your car. This has happened. A taxi driver in the west of the city, he ran from his car, which was the right thing to do in the circumstances. The people that attacked him took his car, they were driving around, the car was eventually found in fields. The inside of the car was wrecked, they’d damaged the seats, destroyed everything in the glove box. It was animal activity, brutal.”

“One of our members, a friend, maybe six or seven years ago, called me and ask if I could come. It was around 1am in the morning. He was outside a club in the city centre. He’d had a hire in his car bothering him. He’d told them to leave his car. They’d got out but left the door open, so he got out and the guy came from the back and slashed him, the back of his head. He needed sixteen stitches. That’s when hate crime becomes dangerous, it becomes life-threatening.”

Worst Incident

Sadiq, a university graduate with a degree in Psychology and a former professional badminton player, then described one of the worst incidents he experienced. “It happened around ten years ago. I picked up a hire on Queen Street in Glasgow city centre.

“It was at night. I picked up two women who were going to an address on the outskirts. I had a feeling they weren’t going to pay me. So I asked them if they’d mind paying me up front, which is a taxi driver’s right. They refused. So I said I’d either I take them back or drop them off where we were.

“One of them then said, “You shouldn’t be in this city anyway”, and began abusing me racially, swearing, called me Taliban. I told them they were crossing a line, and that I wouldn’t take them. So I pulled over. They got out of the car, leaving the car door open, and one of the girls had a bag in her hand. She swung it has hard as she could against the car and there was a really loud noise. And the other one spat on me but luckily the window was up. The girls were saying “It’s two against one, let’s get him jailed.” And they went off up the carriageway.

“I finished my shift, went home and soon the police were at the door. They asked me what happened the night before. The girls had accused me of trying to hit them with my car, trying to run over them. And the officers said they wanted to hear my story. And then they said because there was two of them they’d need to give me a cautionary charge.

“I went to see my lawyer and he advised me to take a picture of the damage, which I took to the police station. The first two hearings, the women didn’t turn up. Then there was a third hearing. It was nearly a year since the incident and they both turned up. There was a strong cross-examination. The case was found in my favour. There were a lot of inconsistencies in their story, whereas my story stayed the same from the beginning, of course.

“But I had to pay for my legal fees. I had to spend all day in court. Another driver, a friend, who’d seen the incident from a petrol station, came as a witness. The cost of the incident to both him and I was considerable.”

Founding an association for drivers

In 2008 Saqib Majeed founded SEPHWA, to help private hire taxi drivers experiencing hate crime and support them with licensing issues. “Sometimes in life you see a gap, and you wondering why something can’t be done,” he said. “If you are one, you’re nothing. If you are a group you’re much stronger. If you want to be heard, you need to find your voice. A single person’s voice is not as valuable as an organisational voice.

“We campaigned on CCTV inside taxis in 2010, lobbied the council. Before that, the proposal was on the table but no one was pushing. It makes the job much easier for police and the courts. And CCTV is allowed now, thanks to all the people who got behind the campaign.”

When asked about the importance of reporting hate crime, Saqib says, “If any SEPHWA member experiences hate crime we encourage them to report it. We are an official Third Party Reporting Centre as well. If a driver says “I don’t have time”, I say, “Come and see me, come and have a cup of tea. All you have to do is give me the details, what happened. The police officers will not come to your house, they’ll come to our office. Just give your time. There’s a benefit for you, and for the future.” Our members have reported a lot.

The importance of reporting hate incidents

“In the back of some drivers’ minds will be the thought that nothing will come of this. Or they think they’re not going to treat me very well. There might be a problem with language. Or it’s a busy night and they think “I can’t be bothered going to a police station. I’ll lose two hours.” These are all factors in people not reporting hate crime. They might think, if it happens next time, I’ll report it.

“But it is very important to report hate crime. The more data that is gathered, the more the police will know about the problem, the more they and the Scottish Government can plan how to best tackle it. The more we report, the more support we will get and the better treatment we’ll get. You can’t ignore it. Reporting is the only way we can know what’s happening.”

Asked about Police Scotland’s new campaign, Sadiq says, “I like this new Police Scotland campaign. It’s a strong way to educate people. To let them know, if you do this, there will be consequences. The more hate crime is acknowledged and discussed in the media the better. It's something we need to address. And social media is a very powerful tool. Campaigns like this should happen on a regular basis. We won’t change things overnight. That’s human nature. We need to keep reminding people. Then things will change.

“If someone commits a hate crime and there are no consequences, then not only will he do it again, the younger generation coming behind them will see that and then they’ll commit hate crime too. You need the deterrent.”

If you have been a victim of hate crime, you can report it here. 

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