Belfast Telegraph

Hate crime conviction rate rises

The number of hate crime convictions for the most serious offenders has increased by 5% in Northern Ireland.

Hate crimes involve incidents motivated by a person's race, sexual orientation, religion, political opinion or disability.

Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) Barra McGrory QC said: "We are investing in specialist training for our staff and also involved staff from other agencies so that we can build stronger prosecution cases."

Both the Crown Court and magistrates' court conviction rates for hate crimes showed 5% increases, according to the Public Prosecution Service (PPS). The Crown Court conviction rate increased from 81% to 86%, and from 63% in the magistrates' courts to 68% over the same 2013/14 period.

Last year the PPS prosecuted 498 people for offences aggravated by hostility. In the Crown Court, 86% of the 103 defendants were convicted, while 68% of 395 defendants were convicted through the magistrates' courts.

Mr McGrory added: "I note that conviction rates for hate crime offences are high and improving and this is to be welcomed.

"We also consider that it is important to be able to analyse the sentencing imposed on cases aggravated by hostility.

"The PPS is leading on data collection in this area and we intend to publish the first tranche of data in our annual hate crime bulletin next year."

A discussion on Monday hosted by the PPS involved hate crime representatives from official and voluntary agencies like the Rainbow Project and Victims Support NI in a discussion on information sharing and identifying data gaps as well as how policy development in this area might be shaped.

A guide to how the test for prosecution is applied by the PPS to all cases was provided along with an outline of the processes involved in considering offences aggravated by hostility.

Attendees were also updated on the continued roll-out of support services provided by the PPS Victim and Witness Care Unit.

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