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Hate crime 'everyday experience' for some Irish communities

Published 16/10/2016

Not all hate crimes are reported to gardai
Not all hate crimes are reported to gardai

Hate crimes are being reported at a rate of almost one every day, official figures have revealed.

Some 151 aggravated incidents were recorded by gardai in the first six months of this year - a near doubling of the numbers previously logged.

But experts warned the scourge could be more widespread because victims are reluctant to report and a fifth of all crime is not added to the Garda's Pulse computer database.

Figures released to the Press Association showed the number of racist incidents or those motivated because of someone's ethnic background or religion soared to 98 in the first six months of this year.

Gardai recorded 119 racially aggravated incidents for the whole of last year, the Central Statistics Office (CSO) said.

Based on the patterns in the records, there are almost six times fewer racist hate incidents in the Republic than in Northern Ireland.

On alleged offences linked to ageism and abuse of people with disabilities, the CSO said there were 27 in the year to the end of June, compared to 15 for the whole of last year.

On records of incidents said to be motivated by gender, transphobia or homophobia, there were 26 in the first six months of this year compared to 25 for the whole of last year.

Jennifer Schweppe, law lecturer at the University of Limerick, said the increased levels of reporting and recording is welcome.

"We do know that the real figures are a lot higher than what is being recorded," she said.

"What is to be welcomed is the expansion of the categories of hate crime which are being recorded. We can see anti-disability incidents and transphobia are an issue that we were relatively blind to before."

The huge increases in recorded hate crimes coincides with changes to the Pulse database late last year with new categories for motivations - sectarianism, anti-Semitism, racism, homophobia, transphobia, ageism, incidents targeting travellers, Roma, Muslims, people with disabilities and gender-related offences.

Previously, gardai could only use four classifications - racism, homophobia, xenophobia and anti-Semitism - with total records averaging at 142 incidents a year.

Shane O'Curry, director of European Network Against Racism - Ireland, which has recorded roughly twice as many incidents on its hotline than were logged by gardai, said adding new categories to the Pulse database is not enough.

"I think it's a small step in the right direction, compared to the previous statistics which have been criticised for their paucity," he said.

"More needs to be done to instil confidence in ethnic minority communities in An Garda Siochana. What also needs to be asked is what are the pressures on gardai not to record a crime in the first place."

The Central Statistics Office (CSO), which cautions that almost a fifth of all reported crime is not recorded on Pulse, declined to give data on the exact number of incidents recorded under each of the 11 categories.

It claimed it would risk identifying victims and those who made the reports to gardai. This is despite the numbers being released in previous years.

Hate crime is not a specific offence under Irish law but it can be taken into account in a trial.

Fianna Fail attempt to bring in legislation on hate crime last week to allow sentencing judges to take aggravating factors into account related to race, colour, ethnic origin, disability, sexual orientation or transgender identity.

Ms Schweppe added: "For some members of our communities hostility, and I would say hate crime, is part of every day experience."

Press Association

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