Working definition of hate crime must be underpinned by law – O’Loughlin

-Govt must progress Criminal Justice (Aggravation by Prejudice) Bill without delay-

I recently welcomed the introduction of a working definition for hate crime by An Garda Síochána but said that it must now be enshrined by law. The failure by An Garda Síochána to define hate crime, or develop procedures for the recording of hate crime was leaving vulnerable people at risk. She has co-sponsored the Criminal Justice (Aggravation by Prejudice) Bill, a Fianna Fáil Bill which provides that the courts must consider an offender’s prejudice when sentencing.

For too long there has been a system-wide failure in the detection of hate crimes. This was leaving vulnerable groups, such as members of the LGBT community, those from ethnic minorities or the travelling community, without proper protections.

I am glad that An Garda Síochana have now decided to introduce a working definition which will determine a hate crime as any criminal offence perceived by the victim or any other person to be motivated by hostility or prejudice based on disability, race, colour, nationality, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation or gender.

However, we need to go a step further, we need this to be underpinned by law and that is why the Government must progress the Fianna Fáil Criminal Justice (Aggravation by Prejudice) Bill. The Bill provides that the court must take into account when sentencing, if an offence was aggravated by prejudice relating to disability, colour, ethnic origin, disability, sexual orientation or transgender.

We need to show that we are serious in tackling hate crime and we need to enshrine it in law.