There is a new consultation by the Law Society about changes to Hate Crime Law. The consultation finishes 20th December 2020. This could lead to reforms to hate crime laws to make them fairer, and to protect women for the first time. Here’s the Law Society’s information on the consultation, plus links to take part:
Hate crimes are acts of violence or hostility directed at people because of who they are. Hate crime laws in England and Wales have developed in various phases over the past two decades, and the law currently recognises five protected characteristics:
- sexual orientation
- transgender status.
But the criminal law does not treat all of those protected characteristics equally. This means that someone who is assaulted based on disability is not afforded the same protection as someone who is assaulted because of their race.
Other major concerns include:
- The complexity and lack of clarity in the current laws which can make them hard to understand.
- Concerns about the particular challenges in prosecuting disability hate crimes
There have also been calls for hate crime laws to be expanded to include new protected characteristics to tackle hatred such as misogyny and ageism, and hostility towards other groups such as homeless people, sex workers, people who hold non-religious philosophical beliefs (for example, humanists) and alternative subcultures (for example goths or punks).
In our consultation paper, launched on 23 September 2020, we have made a number of proposals for reform of hate crime laws. These include:
- Equalising protection across all of the existing protected characteristics. This would involve extending the application of aggravated offences, stirring up hatred offences, and potentially football chanting offences to those characteristics that are not already covered
- Adding sex or gender to the protected characteristics.
- Establishing criteria for deciding whether any additional characteristics should be recognised in hate crime laws, and consulting further on a range of other characteristics, notably “age”.
- Reformulating the offences of stirring up hatred to focus on deliberate incitement of hatred, providing greater protection for freedom of speech where no intent to incite hatred can be proven.
- Expanding the offence of racist chanting at football matches to cover homophobic chanting, and other forms of behaviour, such as gestures and throwing missiles at players.
Responding to the consultation
We invite consultees to submit their views on reforms to hate crime laws
Consultees are invited to respond to as many or as few questions as they wish, whether the broad questions found in the summary or the more detailed questions in the consultation paper itself.
Where possible, it would be helpful if these online survey tools were used. Alternatively, comments may be sent:
- by email to email@example.com
- by post to Hate Crime Team, Law Commission, 1st Floor, 52 Queen Anne’s Gate, London, SW1H 9AG.
(If you send your comments by post, it would be helpful if, whenever possible, you could also send them electronically.)