Specific offences of racially aggravated crimes were established in Britain by the Crime and Disorder Act 1998. A number of offences with a racial aggravation now attract a higher penalty than those without. The United States has a long experience of similar legislation. But critics of so-called "hate crime" laws in the US argue that the legislation has failed to fulfill expectations. It is therefore timely to ask what are the objectives behind the legislation in Britain, and what are the prospects for achieving them? This article argues that the most significant impact of the legislation is likely to be on the criminal justice agencies expected to deal with racially aggravated crime.