New hate crime laws approved by the Government will see tougher sentencing for crimes targeting people because of reasons such as race, sexual orientation, gender or disability.
Justice Minister Helen McEntee stated, “Hate crimes tell the victim that they are not safe simply because of who they are. They send the disgusting message to victims that they and people like them are somehow lesser than the rest of us.
“These crimes are motivated by prejudice. They make victims feel afraid for their future, their friends and their families. They lead to a divided society, where whole communities can feel unsafe and angry.
“We must get tough and show victims that we will recognise the true harm of these crimes. And perpetrators will know that we are determined to stamp out prejudice and hate.”
The new bill will see more severe sentencing for crimes such as assault, threat, harassment and criminal damage if they are found to be fueled by hate crime. For instance, assault would increase from six months to nine months, while assault causing harm would increase from five years to seven years.
Sentencing will double from three months to six for abusive or threatening behaviour and coercion will go from five years to seven. Threats to kill and harassment will see sentencing increase from ten to 12 years.
Speaking about the introduction of the hate crime laws Minister McEntee continued, “Creating these new offences will mean that a crime can be investigated as a potential hate crime by Gardaí, and evidence of the hate element can be presented in court.
“Where the jury finds that the crime was a hate crime based on the evidence, and convicts the person of a hate crime, the enhanced penalty for the new offence will be available to the judge at sentencing.
“Where the jury finds that the hate element is not proven, they will still be able to convict the person of the ordinary form of the offence.”
Discussing the news, Adam Long of the National LGBT Federation (NXF) shared, “Legislating for a robust and effective Hate Crime law has been a major priority for the NXF ever since our Burning Issues 2 research identified it as a leading issue for LGBTQ+ people post-marriage equality.
“We therefore welcome today’s publication by Government of their Heads of Bill to finally end Ireland’s outlier status as one of the few countries in the western world with no such legislation in place. We will be closely monitoring the Bill’s progress through the Oireachtas to ensure that a comprehensive law is enacted containing explicit protections for sexual orientation and gender identity/expression.
“Society must send a clear message that the targeting of people for who they are will not be tolerated.”
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