Eight hate incidents reported per day in Northern Ireland

Northern Ireland should consider introducing statutory hate offences in line with England and Wales, according to an independent review.

Dec 6, 2017

Northern Ireland should consider introducing statutory hate offences in line with England and Wales, according to an independent review. Six hate crimes and eight hate incidents were reported every day in Northern Ireland in 2015/16, Criminal Justice Inspection Northern Ireland (CJINI) found. The rate is more than the equivalent in England and Wales, where 5.5 hate crimes are recorded per day, and underreporting means the true level may be even higher. While criminal justice agencies have taken positive steps to improve how they support people, Chief Inspector of Criminal Justice Brendan McGuigan said it is a societal problem that demands a wider response. He recommended reviewing hate crime legislation in Northern Ireland to potentially introduce specific statutory offences like those in England and Wales, where perpetrators can be charged with hate offences of assault and damage. Mr McGuigan said: “The report identified that specific statutory offences such as hate crimes of assault and criminal damage had been introduced in England and Wales over and above the enhanced sentencing powers that were available in Northern Ireland. “I have therefore recommended that the Department of Justice (DoJ) conduct a review of hate crime legislation in Northern Ireland to establish if change is required and whether the introduction of statutory offences, similar to those in England and Wales, would be beneficial.” A total of 62,518 hate crimes were reported in England and Wales in 2015/16, or 171 per day, compared with 2,169 in Northern Ireland. Adjusted for population differences, the rate in Northern Ireland equates to 185 per day, CJINI claims. Meanwhile, 3,108 hate incidents were reported, most of which were classed as violence motivated by racism. These led to 573 files being sent to prosecutors and 270 successful convictions. CJINI criticised criminal justice agencies for lacking a consistent approach to engaging with victims, describing the current situation as “unacceptable”. Mr McGuigan therefore asked for officers to receive training involving hate crime specific scenarios to help them understand how to overcome barriers to victim and witness engagement. He also proposed linking the DoJ’s hate crime strategy to the Northern Ireland Executive’s strategy to facilitate a cross-departmental approach. A Police Service of Northern Ireland spokesperson said the force is “committed to investigating all hate crimes and working with our partners to increase reporting and support victims”.

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