The Minister for Justice Helen McEntee announced last month that she is amending her approach to the forthcoming Incitement to Hatred and Hate Crime Bill, ‘The Hate Speech and Hate Crime Bill’, to make it easier to secure prosecutions and convictions for crimes motivated by hate.
Minister said as there was cross-party support, new hate-crime legislation should be enacted by the end of the year.
The aim is to ensure offences on the basis of race, colour, nationality, ethnic or national origin, sexual orientation, gender and disability would carry an enhanced penalty compared to the ordinary offence. Any conviction for such an offence would clearly state the offence is motivated by hatred, that it is a hate crime.
The new law will legislate for hate crimes by creating new, aggravated forms of certain existing criminal offences, where those offences are motivated by prejudice against a protected characteristic. It will also update the previous 1989 legislation on hate speech to reflect the current context more accurately and include online hateful content.
Minister McEntee said, “This is a hugely important piece of legislation which will tell victims of hate crimes that we are determined to help them and will also let perpetrators know that they will be punished for spreading hate, prejudice and division.
“I know how much it means to many groups that we get this legislation right, that it is an effective law which An Garda Síochána will be able to prosecute, and which will allow convictions be secured in the courts.
“That is why we must make sure that the Bill is victim centred and effective, and that is why I am making these changes. We must get this Bill right, and it is my intention to publish the full Bill in early September and enact it by the end of the year.”
The legislation will cover all forms of media, including online and social media, and hosting companies are “onboard” with the new legislation and know they will have to show they are making every effort to remove offending content.
It is expected the new offence would contain harsher penalties than similar offences without a hate motivation. An objective “demonstration test” – where guilt can be established if the perpetrator uses, for example, racial language or other evidence of hate against the victim will be included as part of the legislation.
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