Belfast Telegraph

Hate crime convictions rise for second year

Hate crime convictions have increased for the second consecutive year in Northern Ireland.

The Public Prosecution Service (PPS) said almost 95% of the most serious offenders were convicted at the Crown Court - a rise from 86.4% last year.

Director of Public Prosecutions Barra McGrory said: "The conviction rates being recorded are very reassuring."

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

Last year the PPS received 570 files from police involving hate crime, just two fewer than the previous year. Most cases fell into two categories: violence against the person (49%) or public order (21%).

However, there was a drop in the number of files relating to sectarian hate crime, which fell from 253 during 2013/14 to 213 last year.

Of the 807 people prosecuted for hate crimes, 36 were dealt with in the Crown Court.

A total of 383 defendants appeared before judges in the magistrates' and youth courts, where 67.4% were convicted.

Last year the PPS prosecuted 549 for offences aggravated by hostility.

Of these, there was a decrease in the number of successful Crown Court prosecutions, where 46 of the 53 defendants (86.8%) were found guilty compared with 94.1% last year.

But the PPS recorded an improvement in magistrates' and youth court conviction rates, which rose from 63.7% in 2013/14 to 68.7% in 2014/15.

Of the 333 decisions for no prosecution issued, the vast majority (98%) did not pass the evidential test. The remaining 2% did not pass the public interest test.

Mr McGrory said the statistics represented results for the region's criminal justice agencies.

He said: "They show that the information we receive from the police, and the files we prepare, build a strong case for prosecution and that helps send out a message that hate crime will be dealt with in the strongest possible terms.

"Of course there is still work to be done and we will continue to work closely with a range of agencies to ensure the robust and effective prosecution of all such cases."

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