A report published today by the Law Commission recommends that a “stronger and more coherent” response to hate crimes against LGBT people is taken.
The report, titled ‘Hate Crime: Should the Current Offences be Extended?’, calls for a comprehensive review of how hate-crimes are currently handled.
Hate crimes are currently recorded if the victim of a crime, or anyone else, believes that it was motivated by hostility based on disability, gender identity, race, religion and sexual orientation. but criminal offences are not the same for all five.
The report called existing offences “unnecessarily complex and not working well” – currently the Crime and Disorder Act 1998 created racially and religiously aggravated offences, and the Public Order Act 1986 criminalises stirring up hatred on the grounds of race, religion and sexual orientation.
Today’s report suggested that there was strong support, following a consultation, for having aggravated offences extended to cover all five.
A “comprehensive review” is also recommended, particularly into how the criminal justice system can better protect victims of hate crimes. It calls for specific criminal offences to protect victims of each type of hate crime.
Noting that it would need Government support and resources, the commission says that the “alternative but less satisfactory solution”, would be simply to extend the aggravated offences to protect against gender identity, sexuality or disability based hate crimes.
Research for the commission found that enhanced sentencing powers for hate crimes are under used because hostility behind hate crimes is not investigated, so evidence needed is not given.
The Sentencing Council should provide clear guidelines for judges on how to sentence any crime featuring an element of hostility, and that the Police National Computer should record when events are aggravated, says the commission.
Law commissioner for criminal law Professor David Ormerod QC said: “We do not believe that simply extending the existing offences would provide an adequate solution. Instead, we recommend a thorough review of the scheme should be carried out. We believe this would provide the criminal justice system with its best opportunity to respond effectively to hate crime in all its forms.’
Commenting, justice minister Damian Green said: “All forms of hate crime are despicable and can have devastating consequences for victims and communities.”
He said the Government welcomed the report, and that it would respond “in due course”.