New hate crime legislation with ‘teeth’ could be in place by year's end

Minister for Justice Helen McEntee said the new legislation should be enacted by the end of the year as there was cross-party support
New hate crime legislation with ‘teeth’ could be in place by year's end

Vivienne Clarke

New legislation providing “teeth” to combat hate crime and secure convictions could be in place within months.

Minister for Justice Helen McEntee said the new hate crime legislation should be enacted by the end of the year as there was cross-party support “in general”.

Speaking on both Newstalk Breakfast and RTÉ radio’s Morning Ireland, Ms McEntee said the new legislation would provide “teeth” to combat hate crime and make it easier to secure convictions.

The aim was to ensure that offences on the basis of race, colour, nationality, ethnic or national origin, sexual orientation, gender or disability would carry an enhanced penalty, compared to the ordinary offence, she explained.

Any conviction for such an offence would clearly state that the offence was motivated by hatred - that it was a hate crime.

“We all have a right to be safe, to feel safe.”

Free speech

The new legislation – the Incitement to Hatred and Hate Crime Bill – will send a clear message that such offences were not acceptable and that there would be penalties, Ms McEntee said.

The previous legislation, which was introduced in 1989, did not have teeth she said, and there had been only 50 convictions since it was introduced. The new Bill contained “a specific set of characteristics”.

There would be clear safeguards to protect free speech and debate, but a high bar would have to be created and Ms McEntee said she wanted hate crime and incitement to commit acts of violence to be prosecutable.

The legislation would cover all forms of media, including online and social media. Hosting companies were “onboard” with the new legislation, and knew that they would have to show that they made every effort to remove offending content.

Work on the new Bill had commenced in 2019, she said. There had been consultation with different groups and individuals. There had been pre-legislative scrutiny which led to recommendations which she “took on board”.

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