Irish State “failing to meet its obligations in relation to hate crime”, according to report by UL researchers

University of Limerick Campus. Picture: Alan Place

The Irish State is failing to meet its obligations in relation to hate crime, a report being presented this morning to a United Nations Committee, by researchers based at University of Limerick (UL), has found.

Gardai have also come in for serious criticism in the report over its handling of hate crime.

The Hate and Hostility Research Group (HHRG), based at UL, was asked by the Coalition Against Hate Crime to write an alternative report for the UN Committee on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (CERD) on the issue of hate crime and related matters.

The report is being presented at the United Nations in Geneva, by Dr Jennifer Schweppe and Dr Amanda Haynes of UL, along with Dr Sindy Joyce, an indigenous Mincéir, member of the Council of State, human rights activist and UL lecturer.

The report finds that a majority of previous recommendations by UN CERD have not been implemented by the Irish State.

“Ireland, and its police, are wilfully ignoring racial profiling, which is highlighted in the fact that children as young as four years of age were entered onto the Garda Pulse system and given criminal tag numbers,” Dr Joyce claimed.

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Dr Haynes said today’s “hearings give us an important opportunity to highlight the policy vacuum in Ireland with respect to hate crime”.

The report examined four specific issues and presented findings and summary recommendations for each.

• Issue One relates to the Prohibition of Incitement to Hatred Act 1989 where the researchers found that it was not clear how many convictions there have been under the act; that civil society organisations, academics and practitioners have described the act as ineffective; and that the Irish Law Reform Commission considers the Act to be ineffectual in combatting online hate speech; according to the State in its reports to CERD, the Act has been undergoing review for almost two decades.

A recently announced public consultation on the 1989 Act characterises its aims as addressing hate speech and asks the general population their views on protecting the rights of minority populations.

• Issue Two relates to hate crime, and summary findings include that data collected indicates that a majority of victims of hate crime in Ireland do not report to the police. The research also shows that the hate element of a crime is often ‘disappeared’ through the criminal process due to a lack of training and the absence of legislation; and that, according to the State in its own reports to CERD, the question as to whether hate crime legislation should be introduced has been under ongoing review for almost two decades.

• Issue Three related to racial profiling and its summary findings include that there is no clear statement in law as to the illegality of racial profiling; there is no official data on racial profiling available; there is no evidence that members of An Garda Siochana have received training in relation to racial profiling.

The report also stated that in October 2014 a newspaper reported that two Traveller children aged 4 and 5 were “recorded and given criminal tag numbers” in the national police crime incident database. A report of the Children’s Ombudsman also found that the actions of An Garda Siochana in removing a child from his Roma parents “conformed to the definition of ethnic profiling”, the report adds.

• Issue Four examined training in the criminal justice process and showed that there are only 247 Ethnic Liaison Officers (ELOs) available across the State, and the new Garda Diversity and Inclusion Strategy omits any reference, or commitment, to the role. Research has documented significant shortcomings in the training made available to ELOS and likewise to Gardai, and there has been no relevant judicial training, the report adds.

In twelve of 13 previous recommendations made by CERD to the State in previous concluding observations, the report finds that there they have either not been followed, or there is no available evidence to show that they have been followed or if they have been implemented or not.

The report also makes a series of its own recommendations, including publishing the outcomes of the Department of Justice and Equality’s review of the 1989 act “as a matter of urgency” and providing training across the criminal justice sector.

The State has had hate crime and hate speech under review for nearly two decades, without action,” Dr Schweppe explained.

“The Committee has chosen hate crime and incitement to hatred as two issues it specifically wants the State to address and we look forward to having a discussion with the Committee on these issues.”