Belfast Telegraph

Monday 22 December 2014

Racial hate crime legislation urged

Campaigners want an offence of racially aggravated crime to be introduced
Campaigners want an offence of racially aggravated crime to be introduced

An offence of racially aggravated crime should be introduced in Northern Ireland, campaigners have said.

Many incidents are being prosecuted as simple assaults or murders without hate motivation being included, making it difficult to gauge trends, a report said.

Only 12 out of almost 14,000 hate-motivated incidents in the last five years were prosecuted under hate crime legislation designed to protect the vulnerable, it said.

Ethnic minorities advocates published fresh research calling for a plan to overhaul the criminal justice system similar to that carried out in England following the murder of Stephen Lawrence.

The report by the Northern Ireland Council for Ethnic Minorities (NICEM) said: "The overwhelming evidence from NICEM's experience supports the extension of racially aggravated crime to Northern Ireland as part of a package presenting a blueprint for the eradication of racism from the criminal justice system."

The council launches its research, entitled Race and Criminal Justice in Northern Ireland: Towards a Blueprint for the Eradication of Racism from the Northern Ireland Criminal Justice System, on Friday.

NICEM claimed the rate of successful prosecution of generic hate crime in Northern Ireland was tiny. Its report said: "While this research has emphasised that it is not adequate to reduce issues of race and criminal justice to racist hate crime, this reality is even more deeply compromised in a context in which racist hate crime it not adequately or appropriately framed by legislation."

NICEM said those from black and ethnic minority backgrounds were more likely than white people to be victims of crime.

Patrick Yu, executive director of NICEM, said: "Northern Ireland still lacks a blueprint or plan to rid the criminal justice system of racism, like the Macpherson report in the wake of the murder of Stephen Lawrence provided for England and Wales.

"The importance of this is highlighted very clearly through the research, particularly when you look at Scotland, another devolved institution that was not bound by Macpherson, and yet took concrete steps to put the Macpherson learning into practice."

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