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Irish hate crimes ignored by legal bodies ? Ireland’s struggle of legislation against suspects and perpetrators of hate-motivated offenses

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Over 580 hate crimes and hate related incidents have been recorded by the Garda only in 2022. This was an increase of 29% in comparison to 2021. As the numbers are increasing continuously there is still no legislation in Ireland in order to make hate crimes and its perpetrators liable to prosecution, this new investigation shows.

Photo by Paolo Trabattoni for Pixabay.

Even though the department for justice has established a criminal justice bill, which aims to “amend the law relating to the prohibition of incitement to violence or hatred against a person or a group of persons on account of certain characteristics”, it is important to know that a bill is just a proposal for legislation and not an enacted law.

That means that victims of hate crimes have only a little to no chance of seeing a perpetrator charged. Campaigners and representatives therefore warn that these poor outcomes might result in victims deterring the reporting of crimes to governmental bodies in the future. “Generally we find that about 30% of hate crimes that are reported to us are also reported to the Garda. So in 70% of all cases people don’t have enough confidence in the police in order to report their incidents”, reveals Shane O’Curry, Director of the Irish Network Against Racism (INAR). This data is alarming as previous studies already outlined that the relationship between the police and the community has been identified as a key ingredient for an effective translation of hate crime policy.

Within this investigation we also confronted the Garda with those findings and asked for a statement in order to find out how they perceive the lost of trust in their work and other governmental institutions in terms of hate crimes. A representative said: “An Garda Síochána does not comment on remarks made by third parties. (…) We acknowledge that our ongoing work to strengthen our relationship with ethnic communities in Ireland must continue, but are very determined to build on trust.” They also refused to comment on proposed legislation.

To understand why legislation is urgently needed it is necessary to explain what a hate crime is. An offense is recorded as a hate crime when a victim or any other person perceives the suspect to be motivated by hostility or prejudice. This is based on actual or perceived age, disability, race, colour, nationality, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation or gender.

Graphic by Philipp Baumhöfner. Made in Canva.

Missing legislation towards those types of crime does not only mean that perpetrators cannot be prosecuted sufficiently but also that attacks towards minor groups and communities will continue. This will have a severe impact on the society and affected people, according to Jamie Kenny, Executive Director of the Dublin LGBTQ Pride organisation, a member of the coalition against hate crime.

“There are lots of people who are frustrated because they do not feel the government is listening to them. We all live in an Ireland where we want everyone to be safe and supported and it’s important that we don’t allow these crimes to take overhand.”

Jamie Kenny

Additionally, this investigation revealed that the types of attacks can be very different. Starting with someone who gets refused by the security in front of a night club it can end in physical attacks. Our contact from the INAR had information about a case where an Imam got a phone call from a couple that wanted to discuss an ostensible wedding with him but attacked him instead. “It was a set up in order to lur him to make him think that he was going to somewhere safe and they attacked him. He got badly assaulted and was taking to the hospital in the end”, exposed Shane O’Curry.

Because of those missing laws the INAR has confirmed that attacked people have left the country or thinking about leaving it as they feel unprotected and insecure. In fact, the research has shown that other European countries are performing better in terms of establishing hate crime legislation than Ireland. The Criminal Code of Sweden for example provides two sections that acknowledge crimes towards ethnic and other minor groups as a hate crime. Furthermore, their laws stipulate a punishment of the perpetrator getting imprisoned between six months and two years and a possible fine.

Jennifer Carroll MacNeill TD.

The fact that hate crimes are treated like other crimes in Ireland can result in investigators disbelieving the victim or prosecutors minimizing the offense when choosing charges, as official documents released by the ODIHR show. As Shane O’Curry states, this creates fear and tends to isolate affected people.

“It makes all of us poorer because the quality of life of everybody is less good without sufficient laws. Hate crime legislation should be a priority for any democratic society that is serious about inclusion and equality.”

Shane O’Curry

Both sources, the INAR as well as the Dublin LGBTQ Pride organisation, have reported independently that there is no clear understanding of hate crimes by judicial bodies when it comes to sentencing and that the establishment of a sufficient legislation is too slow. In order to protect affected groups and communities in the future, laws need to be established as soon as possible. The present only proposed legislation, the Criminal Justice Bill 2022, is currently in the third stage before Seanad Éireann, the upper house of the Irish parliament. In this stage the bill will be examined section by section and it is still possible to make amendments. To become an enacted law there are three more stages that need to pass. Until then, hate crime and hate related incidents can increase further and perpetrators can get off lightly. Other than their victims.

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