What is Hate Crime?
A hate crime is, typically, a violent crime motivated by prejudice, when a perpetrator targets a victim because of their perceived membership of a certain social group.
Hate crime has two important elements:
1. Criminal act: Hate crimes are acts which are treated as crimes in criminal law, such as assaults, theft, criminal damage, arson or murder.
2. Bias motive: Hate crimes are motivated, at least in part, by hatred of someone’s real or supposed identity or background.
People targeted by hate-motivated crime in Ireland are usually:
- From an ethnic minority background (racist hate crimes)
- From a religious minority (religious hate crimes)
- Lesbian, gay or bisexual (homophobic hate crime)
- Transgender (anti-transgender hate crimes)
- People with disabilities (disablist hate crime)
Examples of racist hate crimes
April 2010: Black youth Toyosi Shittabey (19) was murdered in a knife attack in Tyrrelstown, West Dublin. The attack followed an exchange in which his assailant shouted racial abuse. No one has been convicted in connection with Toyosi’s murder.
May 2013: Vietnamese Irish blogger Úna-Minh Kavanagh was attacked by a group of youths assaulted and spat at. They had shouted racial abuse at her. Úna called Gardai and later came face-to-face with her assailant, a 14-year old boy.
February 2013: A house assigned to a Traveller family in Ballyshannon, Co Donegal, was destroyed in an arson attack. The attack came a short time after local Councillor Sean McEniff objected to the house being built and made comments on local radio arguing that Travellers should be kept away from the settled community and isolated.
St Patrick’s day 2014: Adam Labazanov (19), whose family are refugees from Chechnya, was kidnapped at a fake Garda checkpoint and driven 2 miles. He was stripped naked and stabbed 57 times by his assailants after they discovered he was Muslim. They buried him in sand and leaves before leaving him for dead. No one has been brought to justice for these crimes.
July 2015: “Jane”, a working mother of African origin, was forced to move her young children out of their home in county Dublin looking for safety. The family had been subjected to a 2 year ordeal of racist intimidation, culminating in having the tyres on her car slashed repeatedly and racist graffiti being sprayed on her house. No one has been arrested in relation to the crimes committed against Jane and her young family.
The proposed Hate Crime Legislation
Criminal Law (Hate Crime) Bill, together with the accompanying ‘Out of the Shadows’: Legislating for Hate Crime in Ireland Report, was presented to the Government in 2015 by the Hate and Hostility Research Group following a recommendation from The National Steering Group Against Hate Crime.
To date, the Government has failed to take steps to introduce it into law, leaving minorities in Ireland without protection.
Read Life Free From Fear Report indicating the need for a legislative change in the area of hate crime in Ireland informed by primary research with non-governmental organisations engaged in supporting communities which are targets of hate crime.
Read The Lifecycle of a Hate Crime: Country Report for Ireland showing that Ireland is “seriously deficient” when it comes to addressing hate crime in the state. According to the report, in Ireland, from the point at which a victim reports a crime to An Garda Síochána to the point at which a judge sentences an offender, the hate element of the crime is filtered out of the criminal justice process.
The introduction of the Criminal Law (Hate Crime) Bill would mean:
1. The creation of special new categories of aggravated offences:
crimes will be treated more seriously by the courts if they were motivated by racism or other forms of hatred. Those offences include:
- Assault, including Assault Causing Harm or Serious Harm.
- Criminal Damage to property or threat of criminal damage.
- Rape or Sexual Assault.
- Public Order Offences (disorderly conduct, threatening and abusive behaviour, affray, violent disorder).
2. The provision of enhanced sentencing:
offenders will get a higher sentence for a crime committed with a bias element against named protected categories such as the following:
Race, colour, ethnic or social origin, genetic features, language, religion or belief, national minority, Travellers and Roma, disability, age, gender, gender expression, gender identity, sexual orientation, residence status, health, sex characteristics and ability to communicate.
Why do we need hate crime legislation?
To protect minorities.
Everyone has a right to live safely and to participate fully, without fear, in all aspects of life. Having hate crime legislation
makes a strong statement that we value an inclusive society where crimes committed on the basis of a victim’s identity are not tolerated.
Hate crimes hurt more.
The psychological impact of hate crime is deeper than regular crime, with the distress and fear lasting longer. Hate crime dehumanises, goes to the heart of person’s identity, damages dignity and forces people to change their behaviour. Having specific protection in law for victims of hate crime recognises the seriousness and greater damage done by those crimes.
Hate crimes damage community relations.
Hate crimes can lead to fear spreading through the community, especially when there is a poor response. People from the same and other minority groups often react as if the same crime has happened to them. Communities can become isolated and torn apart. Ultimately, racist and religious hate crimes can lead to ethnic conflict.
To make the State take racism seriously.
In 2014 ENAR Ireland recorded 137 incidents meeting the criteria for racist hate crime, while An Garda Síochána recorded only 43. Having Hate Crime Legislation in place will help ensure that hate crimes are recorded and taken seriously in Ireland.
Hate crime legislation works.
In other countries, Hate Crime Legislation is effective in bringing people who commit hate crimes to justice, preventing others from committing them and restoring community confidence in the state.