In September 2013, the Equality and Diverrsity Forum (EDF) submitted a response to the Law Commission consultation on reform of hate crime legislation.
On 27 June 2013, the Law Commission launched a consultation asking whether there is a case for reforming the law to reflect in legislation the view of hate crime held by the criminal justice agencies.
The criminal justice agencies monitor crime related to five main characteristics – disability, gender identity, race, religion and sexual orientation. A crime is recorded as a hate crime if the victim or anyone else believes it to have been motivated by hostility or prejudice based on one of these characteristics. The law does not reflect this view: the legislation that protects some victims from hate crime does not extend to cover all five characteristics.
Under the Crime and Disorder Act 1988 some crimes such as assault or criminal damage are prosecuted as aggravated offences. These offences attract higher sentences if the offender demonstrates hostility or is motivated by racial or religious hostility at the time of the offence. But, if the hostility or motivation relate to disability, sexual orientation or gender identity, the offence does not count as aggravated, although the court does still have the power to impose a higher sentence.
The criminal law also provides protection under the Public Order Act 1986 against those who publish material that is intended to stir up hatred against people on the grounds of race, religion or sexual orientation. But it does not provide the same protection to people where the grounds for stirring up hatred relate to disability or gender identity.
In this consultation, the Law Commission considers whether there is a case for reforming the existing offences to extend protection to all five groups. It asks:
- would any new offences already be covered adequately by existing criminal offences
- does the existing power of the courts to enhance sentencing in such cases already provide sufficient remedy
- would extending the offences create uncertainty [is there a risk/complicating factor that we should include?], or
- should the offences be extended as a matter or principle.
The consultation closed on 27 September 2013.
Click here for EDF response
Click here for Inclusion London response
Click here for details of consultation
Click here for the Law Commission’s summary for non-specialists