New report pushes for hate crime legislation
2018-07-15 13:58:24 -
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By Finn Hoogensen

 

Ireland’s criminal justice system is deficient in addressing hate crimes, a new report argues.

 

Lifecycle of a Hate Crime was co-ordinated by the Irish Council for Civil Liberties (ICCL) and co-authored by researchers from the University of Limerick.

The report finds that due to gaps in the criminal justice process, Ireland struggles to prosecute crimes as hate-motived.

 

Speaking at the launch of the report, the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission’s (IHREC) chief commissioner Emily Logan said there is a “failure of the criminal justice process to adequately capture the hate motivation of a crime, making it disappear from the record.”

 

This process takes place at many levels throughout the criminal justice system, Logan said, from reporting and recording by gardaí all the way to trial and sentencing.

 

“The idea of disappearing [shows] not only the gaps in the criminal justice system, but also the blind spots caused by the deficiencies in reporting, monitoring, recording and recognising hate crime,” Logan added. “For us to tackle hate crime and hate-motivated crime, all of these deficiencies need to be addressed.”

 

The ICCL report is part of a comparative study of five European Union member states, analysing how each nation addresses hate crimes through legislation, policy and criminal prosecution.

 

In Ireland, researchers looked at case law, legislation, policies and official statistics, and conducted interviews with criminal justice practitioners, members of An Garda Síochána, and both victims and offenders of hate crime. The results pointed to a number of factors that contribute to why crimes rarely get prosecuted as hate-motivated.

 

One of those factors is the Irish criminal justice system’s use of judicial discretion to determine whether a crime is hate-motivated. In judicial discretion, it is up to individual gardaí, prosecuting barristers, judges, correction probation officers to determine if a given crime is hate-motivated.

 

“We have no laws addressing hate crime. It is not part of the language of the Irish legal process,” said Amanda Haynes, co-author of the report. “What this means then is that we see individuals own idiosyncratic interpretations of the concept of hate crime coming through.

 

“And what we find in our research is that legal practitioners will often have a narrower definition of hate crime, rather than the police who are coming at it from a broader policing context.”

 

The researchers also found that Ireland’s policing policy lacks specialised hate crime units, guidelines and training for gardaí in investigating hate crimes.

“What we find in an Irish context really is a lack of policy and a lack of policy implementation, which in turn has implications for certainty and consistency in the treatment of hate crime,” Haynes said.

 

The report also outlines recommendations for how to address the policy issue, suggesting new legislation against hate crime; guidelines for the prosecution of such crimes; specialised training for investigators, prosecutors and judges; and a statutory requirement for the hate crime element to be considered at sentencing.

 

“There has been a level of hate crime detected over a long period of time in Ireland, and it was clear that this is an underdeveloped area of policy,” said ICCL executive director Liam Herrick.

 

“Ireland is one of the few European countries that does not have legislation addressing the issue of hate crime. [We hope] there is now an opportunity to put in place a proper legislative response on this issue.”

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