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Calls for Ireland to legislate against online hate crime

A new report from the University of Limerick finds Ireland to be out of step with international legislation on hate crime.

Image: Photocall Ireland

A NEW REPORT proposing changes to hate crime legislation has been launched today by a group of experts from the University of Limerick.

The report, entitled ‘A Life Free From Fear’, proposes that tougher legislative action be taken on hate crime.

It is proposed that when a offence involves “hostility, prejudice bias or hatred”, this should be treated as an aggravating factor in sentencing.

In a previous report it was suggested that new legislation should include measures against abusive or threatening verbal abuse, incitement to discriminate on the grounds of race and active participation in a group that promotes discrimination on the grounds of race.

This new proposal aims at the expansion of these measures to include hate crime more broadly.

It is also suggested that legislation is introduced to look at hate crime online. It is suggested that Ireland should sign and ratify the Additional Protocol to the Convention on Cybercrime.

Speaking to TheJournal.ie, co-author of the report Dr Amanda Haynes, said: ”I think that what the research shows is that it is an international issue and Ireland is no exception.”

She added:

Our research shows that people are commonly targeted on the basis of their sexuality. We see racist hate crime on people from different backgrounds, including the traveller community.  Disablist hate crime is another area that came up as well.

On the potential for legislation, Haynes said: ”It is very much our hope that the legislation is changed. It is not an option anymore. It is a necessity we address this issue.”

The research was carried out through consultation with 14 Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) representing different groups who experience hate crime.

Of the groups asked, 13 out of the 14 thought that hate crime was an issue for those that they represented.

Groups that were found to have experienced hate crime were: 

  • People with disabilities 
  • Ethnic and racial minorities
  • The traveller community
  • Immigrants, refugees and asylum seekers 
  • Religious minorities 
  • People from the LGBT communities

Hate crime in Ireland is currently legislated for under the Prohibition of Incitement to Hatred Act 1989. The Act is criticised in the report for its lack of effectiveness in achieving prosecutions.

One issue noted is that the Irish courts have yet to find hate crime to be an aggravating factor in considering prosecution.

Speaking at today’s launch, which took place in Buswells Hotel in Dublin, was Labour Senator Ivana Bacik. On the new report Bacik said:

The report shows that the current legal regime is incapable of addressing hate crime, and that legislative change is required. Crucially the report also presents useful proposals for the appropriate legislative model, and this is particularly welcome.

The report was authored by Jennifer Schweppe of the school of law along with Dr Amanda Haynes and Dr James Carr, both from the department of sociology.

Read: Sectarian graffiti daubed on two churches

Also: Gardaí urge victims of racism and hate crimes to speak to them

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