Across the common law world, legislation which has the aim of combating hate crime has become a familiar part of the criminal code. The purpose of this research is to explore options for stautory frameworks, and in an Irish context, legislative reform, in this context. Utilising a socio-legal methodology informed by doctrinal and comparative approaches, the research to date has explored the policy and practice consequences of the absence of legislation in Ireland, through the Out of the Shadows and Lifecycle of a Hate Crime: Country Report for Ireland reports.
The next phase of the research, which is currently underway, considers the core considerations for legislation against hate crime. First, what form should such legislation take? Across the United Kingdom, three different approaches are taken to this question, and each is considerd. The second element to such legislation asks, how is the hate element to be injected into the offence, or defined in its aggravating element. Three possible models are explored here.The most contentious political issue in determining hate crime legislation tends to be the range of victims groups protected by the legislation. The research considers which groups should be protected by hate crime legislation, looking at both theoretical understandings and examples from practice in this regard.
Informing all aspects of the research are core considerations of due process and human rights, considering thus both the rights of the victims (particularly under the EU Victim's Directive and those rights emanting from the decisions of the European Courts of Human Rights) but also the rights of the defendant to a trial in due course of law.
The project has been funded by a number of sources, including the European Commission and the Irish Council for Civil Liberties.
Public Understanding of Hate Crimes Roundtable Discussion, June 8th 2023.
Irish Research Council funded research conducted by members of the European Centre for the Study of Hate at the University of Limerick with Dr Kevin Browne of Queen University Belfast surveyed a representative sample of 1,000 people in Ireland and found that more than two-thirds were in favour of hate crime legislation regardless of the model employed. 80% were in favour of treating as a hate crime those crimes in which the offender was motivated by prejudice against the victim’s group. 79% were in favour of treating as a hate crime those crimes in which the offender chose their victim because of the group the victim belongs to. 67% were in favour of treating as a hate crime those crimes in which the offender used prejudiced language towards the victim’s group when committing the crime.
People in Ireland were also in favour of a very inclusive approach to legislation in that more than 70 per cent were in favour of each of the following groups being protected by legislation - older people, disabled people, gay, lesbian and bisexual people, Black people, Jewish people, Muslims and Travellers. 82% favoured the protection of transgender people in hate crime legislation.
The survey was conducted in Ireland and Northern Ireland and produced, for the first time, data on how populations north and south understand hate crime and the impact of hate crime legislation as well as attitudes of the general population to minority communities North and South. The survey was administered by Amárach Research in January 2023 and the data was weighted to ensure representativeness on the basis of age, gender and region.
The European Centre for the Study of Hate at the University of Limerick presented these and other initial findings of a research study entitled “Public Understandings of Hate Crime” on Wednesday June 7th in Dublin. Participants to the invited seminar included representatives of criminal justice institutions, civil society organisations and researchers who were invited to view the initial findings in order to participate in a roundtable discussion to share their views on the survey findings and their implications for the development of strategies to develop intergroup cohesion on the island of Ireland. The results of this discussion will be incorporated into the research report which will be completed this summer and launched in Belfast in the Autumn.
The research was funded by the Shared Island Unit of the Department of An Taoiseach and the Irish Research Council and conducted by Professors Amanda Haynes, Jennifer Schweppe and Ross Macmillan of the European Centre for the Study of Hate at the University of Limerick and Dr. Kevin Browne of Queen’s University Belfast.