27 June 2013

Hate Crime

The UK Law Commission - counterpart of Australia's ALRC - has commenced a public consultation on Hate Crime: The Case for Extending the Existing Offences.

The project reflects a reference by the Ministry of Justice after publication in 2012 of the Cameron Government’s three-year hate crime action plan, which centred on
  • preventing hate crime – by challenging the attitudes that underpin it, and early intervention to prevent it escalating;
  • increasing reporting and access to support – by building victim confidence and supporting local partnerships;
  • improving the operational response to hate crimes – by better identifying and managing cases, and dealing effectively with offenders.
The Commission notes that
At present, criminal justice agencies record as a “hate crime” any offence which is perceived by the victim or any other person to be motivated by hostility or prejudice based on a person’s race, religion, sexual orientation, disability or transgender identity. However, existing criminal offences dealing specifically with the problem of hate crime do not recognise the same five protected characteristics.
Its terms of reference encompass
a) extending the aggravated offences in the Crime and Disorder Act 1998 (UK) to include where hostility is demonstrated towards people on the grounds of disability, sexual orientation or gender identity;
b) the case for extending the stirring up of hatred offences under the Public Order Act 1986 (UK) to include stirring up of hatred on the grounds of disability or gender identity.
The Commission is also to explore the current sentencing regime applicable to cases where hostility is established (ie already covering all five groups, with similar elements to the aggravated offences (though it is applicable to a wider group of offences). The expectation is that the Commission will analyse the case for reforming the existing hate crime offences to "bring greater coherence and protection for all five groups".

It is asking for input regarding
  • Do existing criminal offences provide adequate protection against the types of wrongdoing occurring against members of the protected groups?
  • Do the Courts’ existing sentencing powers provide a sufficient response in all cases?
  • Would extending the offences create uncertainty or have other unintended consequences?
The consultation paper [PDF] is supported by appendices regarding
  • ECHR issues [PDF]
  • the history to the existing legislative provisions [PDF] and
  • a legislative impact assessment [PDF].
The consultation includes a paper [PDF] by John Stanton-Ife on theoretical arguments relevant to the extension of the existing offences