Words: Ellen Kenny
A hate crime on the basis of prejudice will be a convicted offense in the new legislation.
Minister for Justice Helen McEntee announced she has changed her approach to the Incitement to Hatred and Hate Crime Bill, which she will introduce by the end of the year. The aim is to make it easier to convict attacks aimed at minority groups.
The new legislation will create more extensive versions of existing offences. It will now include violence motivated by the “protected characteristic” of the victim as a crime. Aggravated offences will generally carry an enhanced penalty compared to the ordinary offence.
These protected characteristics are race, colour, nationality, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender, and disability.
McEntee has also introduced a “demonstration test” to legislation, in contrast to the “motivation test” she previously tabled. The motivation test asked what was the offender’s “exact thinking” at the moment of the offence. This, according to McEntee, is harder to prove and convict.
Instead, the court must simply see that the offender clearly demonstrated hatred towards a member of a protected group through slurs, gestures or symbols.
While assault is a crime, there is no law that specifically labels attacks on the basis of prejudice as a crime. The last law to deal with hate speech and hate crimes was introduced in 1989.
The upcoming legislation will adapt the law to the changing demographics and means of assault in Ireland.
The law will cover hate speech in print, radio, broadcasting, and online media. In particular, McEntee plans to secure tighter regulation of online hate speech. While there still will here be clear safeguards to protect free speech and debate, the law will not tolerate hate speech.
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