A video of a Garda officer confirming to an online conference that a “very low threshold of perception” applies to reporting ‘non-crime hate incidents’ has emerged as the debate on free speech heats up around legislation that is now set to come before the Seanad.
The Garda, representing the Diversity and Integration unit of an Garda Síochána, told an online conference organised by the Immigration Council of Ireland in February 2021 that an Garda Síochana had now published definitions for both hate crime – and for “non-crime hate incidents”.
She said that steps had been taken by an Garda Síochana to encourage the reporting of perceived ‘hate incidents’ – and that a “very low threshold of perception” applied.
Reporting would be facilitated online or perceived hate incidents could also be reported through NGOs,
The system “now allows for the formal recording of non-crime incidents, and these are incidents that don’t meet the threshold of a criminal offence,” she said.
“Heretofore people may not have thought that whatever happened to them wasn’t important enough to report to the guards and we’re here to tell you, yes it is, if it’s important to you it’s important to us.”
“We work off a very low threshold of perception – and that is in that if it’s perceived by either you, a victim, a family member, a friend, somebody else acting in your best interest – if you perceive that you have been a victim of racism that is sufficient for An Garda Síochana to take that report from you and we’re obliged to do that,” she says.
The Garda explained that the changes were part of a national strategy that had been published in 14 different languages.
“The first thing was, in 2019 we introduced our diversity and integration strategy for 2019 to 2021 and we’ve published that in 14 different languages and the strategy contains a definition for hate crime – and that’s the first time an Garda Síochana has actually formalized a definition for hate crime and it also includes a definition for non-crime hate incidents.” she said.
“We’ve also made huge changes to our pulse system, and that’s our crime recording system, and those changes were carried out in October of last year,” she said.
She explained that for the Gardaí to take a report of a hate incident: “all we need is your perception”.
The online conference heard that “the issue of investigation and prosecution is a different matter and obviously we would need further evidence to gather for that but to take a report, we are obliged to do that all we need is your perception.”
“There’s also a mandatory hate tick box on all pulse incidents now and that then triggers the selection of one of the nine discriminatory motives which are included in our hate crime definition so it allows for much better recording much [more] accurate recording of your account of what has happened,” she told the conference.
The Garda defined hate crime as “any criminal offence which is perceived by the victim or any other person to, in whole or in part, be motivated by hostility or prejudice, based on actual or perceived age, disability, race, colour, nationality, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation or gender.
They also say hate Incidents – (Non Crime) are:
“Any non-crime incident which is perceived by any person to, in whole or in part, be motivated by hostility or prejudice, based on actual or perceived age, disability, race, colour, nationality, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation or gender.”
“A person, community or institution may be a victim of hate crime by virtue of perceived or actual association with a particular group or background. ‘Motivation` is presumed by a demonstration or expression of hostility or prejudice.
“Ethnicity includes ‘Traveller’ and ‘Roma’. Religion includes ‘non-believers’. `Gender` includes gender identity, transgender, intersex, gender expression and gender exploration. An `incident` is an occurrence reported to An Garda Síochána.”