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Society welcomes proposed reforms to tackle hate crime disparities

By December 9, 2021February 16th, 2022Human Rights, People

The Law Society has welcomed reforms that will ensure that disabled and LGBT+ victims of hate crime are given the same level of protection as those targeted due to their religion or race.

After a lengthy review was carried out of hate crime and hate speech laws, the Law Commission issued several suggestions to address inconsistencies in how hate crime laws handle different safeguarded characteristics. For example, aggravated offences, which can lead to stricter sentences, at present only apply to racial and religious hostility.

The commission suggests lengthening aggravated offences to embody all existing characteristics in hate crime laws: race, religion, sexual orientation, disability and transgender identity.

Stephanie Boyce, Law Society president I. stated: ‘In our consultation response, we said it was illogical for aggravated offences to only apply to race or religion-based hostility and should include enhanced sentencing provisions on hostility based on transgender identity, disability and sexual orientation.’

Subject to further confirmation, the commission has recommended adding sex and gender as protected characteristics for the purposes of aggravated offences and longer sentencing, taking into account three possible reform options. However, it concluded that the propositions ‘create more problems than they solve’.

Boyce sated: ‘We raised concerns about the suitability of this proposal as it creates problems on how to deal with forced marriage, FGM, domestic abuse and sexual offences, which are predominantly against women. The prosecution’s already difficult task in proving rape and other sexual offences could be compounded by having to prove gender-based aggravation too. It would further complicate these trials and increase the trauma for victims.’

Alternatively, the commission proclaimed that the government should review the need for a particular offence of public sexual harassment.

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