C: Wikimedia Commons

McEntee Proposes Stronger Laws to Deal With ‘Hate Crimes’. 

Minister for Justice Helen McEntee has put forward a proposal for the strengthening of ‘hate crime’ laws in Ireland.

Speaking on RTÉ Radio1 this morning the minister gave examples of the types of behaviour that might lead to a conviction for ‘hate crime’. 

She said if someone were to be attacked outside an lgbtqi bar after being called a homophobic slur that a ‘hate motive’ could be established in order to hand down a harsher punishment. 

The minister acknowledged that “obviously it’s a crime to assault someone, harass, damage someone’s property” and that a judge “can take an instance of aggravating hate into account it’s not the law it’s not on out statutes”

She said  “There are people in this country at this time not living as they should simply because of fear. Adding “We all have a right to feel safe and to be safe.” and that’s “not a society I want to live in”

Currently the maximum sentence for assault causing harm is 5 years, but under the new legislation, if a hate motive is established, a 7 year sentence could be handed down by a judge or jury of peers. 

She went on to detail the types of factors that could be used to establish a hate crime including but not limited to; Race, religion, ethnicity, nationality, skin colour, sexual orientation, gender “and that includes gender identity’ or disability. 

In a case of criminal damage where the maximum  sentence is 10 years, McEntee said a hate motive could be established if the home was occupied by people who ‘didn’t come from Ireland’ and graffiti featuring racial slurs found at the scene, saying this could lead to a possible 12 year jail term.  

The minister detailed how this new legislation would differ from the Prohibition of Incitement to Hatred Act 1989  saying there would be a “change from 1989 act in terms of incitement to hatred this is where a person intentionally says something or does something that would incite another person to hate that person or group of people of to commit violence against them we are changing that to where someone intentionally or recklessly because sometimes you can say something and you know, you might say well it was a (interviewer interrupts) I didn’t mean it, if you still carry through knowing that your intentions may have had those consequences then that is what we are looking at here.” 

McEntee said there were safeguards in the legislation to ‘protect free speech and debate”, but did not elaborate on their nature, although she claimed “It’s still quite a high bar”. 

Newstalk reported McEntee as saying “What we’re introducing here is a very clear safeguard to make sure that just because a debate is happening around a particular protected characteristic – say sexual orientation or identity – that doesn’t mean that because a person is offended [doesn’t make it a hate crime].” 

The proposed legislation would apply to print, radio, social media, and online publications. 

The minister said she hoped the law would be enacted by September and that there was ‘cross party support’.

 

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