The Hate and Hostility Research Group, as part of the National Steering Group Against Hate Crime, presented to politicians in the Houses of the Oireachtas last week on the need for, and form of, hate crime legislation in Ireland. Dr Amanda Haynes (Dept of Sociology) and Jennifer Schweppe (School of Law) of the Hate and Hostility Research Group were invited by Deputy Fiona O’Loughlin to present on both the impacts of hate crime, as well as the manner in which the hate element of a crime is addressed in law currently.

Dr Amanda Haynes of the HHRG, drawing on international and Irish research findings, spoke of the manner in which hate crime impacts individuals and communities:

“Ethnic minorities, LBGT+ persons, people with disabilities and others who are subjected to hate crime are doubly victimised – first by the criminal act itself and secondly by the harm inflicted in the targeting of their identity. That targeting – often aggressively verbalised in the course of an assault, or inscribed on a home in spray paint – sends a message of rejection and a warning of the ongoing risk of repeat victimisation. Victims experience emotional and psychological distress as well as behavioural changes that can damage integration. As a society, we need to establish effective responses to both the collective problem of hate crime and the individual’s experience of hate motivated victimisation if we are to interrupt the its message of rejection and replace it with one of solidarity.”

Jennifer Schweppe of the HHRG observed that, currently, the hate element of a crime is often ‘disappeared’ through the criminal justice process, referring to research conducted by the HHRG and published in its Report, ‘Out of the Shadows: Legislating for Hate Crime in Ireland’. She said that by legislating, we are sending an important message to victims, their communities and society as a whole:

“When we legislate against hate crime, we are sending the message to society that we will not stand for this type of violent exclusion. We are also sending a message to victims and their communities that they are valued and that we consider this behaviour reprehensible. As a society, Ireland needs to take a stand against hate crime, making it clear that we will not tolerate this violent manifestation of prejudice. As one of the few EU or common law countries without hate crime legislation, we have an opportunity to learn from the experiences of other jurisdictions and introduce legislation which benefits from  international experiences as well as being fit for purpose in an Irish context.”

During the presentation, victims spoke eloquently and movingly about their experiences of homophobic, racist and anti-Muslim hate crime, describing how being a victim of this type of crime impacted their lives. Dr Mark Walters of the University of Sussex, and expert in the area of hate crime, described the current legislative approach to the issue in England and Wales, offering insights on the process to the Irish context:

“Hate crime laws provide an essential mechanism from which the police and other statutory agencies can begin to more effectively tackle bias-motivated offending. These laws help to ensure that the police specifically record and investigate bias-motivated offences as “hate crimes”, that prosecutors adduce at trial evidence of an offender’s demonstration of hate or bias, and that judges publically acknowledge when sentencing the devastating impacts that these crimes can have on individuals and the communities to which they belong.”

The event took place as part of the National Week of Action Against Hate Crime, during which the National Steering Group Against Hate Crime called for the Government to urgently legislate against hate crime. The Group, made up of 18 organisations which represent marginalised communities in Ireland, represents minority ethnic communities, Traveller communities, LGBT+ communities, older persons, disabled communities and other groups, as well as the HHRG, used the hashtag #DontHateLegislate, to promote the issue, which trended nationally on social media all week.

Selected media reports of the event:

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