Amnesty calls for NI laws to be bolstered as hate crimes soar
Amnesty International wants Northern Ireland's race equality laws to be brought into line with the rest of the United Kingdom, claiming the province has fallen behind.
The call comes as Amnesty today publishes a new briefing entitled Against Hate: Tackling Hate Crime In The UK.
The briefing, which has been produced following research by the Centre for Hate Studies at the University of Leicester, is a review of existing legislation and case studies from victims of hate crime.
The report includes case studies of disturbing hate crime based on disability, sexual orientation and sectarian-motivated crimes in Northern Ireland.
Patrick Corrigan of Amnesty International said: "In the last year the PSNI recorded over 1,600 hate crimes in Northern Ireland.
"That means more than 1,600 people here were attacked and harassed, physically or verbally, because they are perceived as different.
"Everybody in this community should be able to go about their lives in peace without fear of attack from those who seek to sow hatred and division.
"We are calling for a much more robust response from government in Northern Ireland to tackle this endemic problem.
"That must include bringing our race equality laws into line with the rest of the UK where Northern Ireland has fallen behind.
"We also need to see the long-delayed sexual orientation strategy, which could map out a joined-up response to tackling homophobic hate crime.
"Stormont's Department of Justice should follow the example of the Scottish Government in establishing a comprehensive independent review of hate crime legislation to consider scope for further improvement."
Mr Corrigan also pointed out that there was a low clear-up rate for hate crimes in Northern Ireland.
Only one in five results in a prosecution or caution that gives some resolution to the victim, he said.
Mr Corrigan called for adequate and appropriate collection and publication of detailed data on hate crime and public perceptions regarding hate crime - comparable with other parts of the UK.