UL report calls for crackdown on hate crime

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LFFFCover_0_84_120  A REPORT launched by University of Limerick academics this week has outlined the need for introducing changes to Irish legislation to combat hate crime.

The report, entitled ‘A Life Free From Fear’ Legislating for Hate Crime in Ireland: An NGO Perspective’, was launched in Dublin on Tuesday, September 2 by Senator Ivana Bacik.

Authors Jennifer Schweppe, Dr Amanda Haynes and Dr James Carr presented the experiences and perspectives of NGOs who deal on a regular basis with hate crime, and provide an analysis of the effectiveness of Irish legislation in combating the issue.

Senator Bacik said the report “shows that hate crime is a very real phenomenon in Ireland today, which effects a multiplicity of communities”.

“People are targeted because of their sexual orientation, gender, including gender identity, race, religion, disability, age, ethnicity, including membership of the Traveller community and sometimes for a combination of these personal characteristics,” she said.

“The report shows that the current legal regime is incapable of addressing hate crime, and that legislative change is required. Crucially, the report also presents useful proposals for the appropriate legislative model, and this is particularly welcome.”

The majority of NGOs (non-governmental organisations) that participated in the report identified their clients’ experiences of hate crime as being associated primarily with either racism, or homophobic and transphobic hate towards LGBT persons.

The types of hate incident identified by the NGOs included physical violence, sexual abuse, verbal abuse and harassment.

Jennifer Schweppe, lecturer in law, said: “It is without question that the lack of legislation in Ireland in the area of hate crime leads to what has been described internationally as ‘permission to hate’.

“It is unacceptable for the State to hide behind the cloak of judicial sentencing discretion, in the expectation that any hate crime will be dealt with more severely by a judge. The current legislative position is simply unacceptable, leading to the further victimisation and ‘othering’ of often already marginalised communities. Legislating for hate crime in Ireland is no longer optional, but a necessity.”