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Independent hate crime legislation review being extended

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Outreach: Desmond Marrinan

Outreach: Desmond Marrinan

Michael Cooper

Outreach: Desmond Marrinan

An independent review of hate crime legislation in Northern Ireland has been extended until the end of April.

The public consultation is being led by Crown Court Judge Desmond Marrinan.

The process has involved a series of public sessions in towns, including Ballymena, Dungannon, Enniskillen and Londonderry. To date, there have been between 650 and 700 responses to an online survey over the past five weeks.

Judge Marrinan said at the recent outreach sessions that "virtually everyone agreed that the present laws are not working" with regard to hate crime and subsequently, some sentencing laws are "not fit for purpose".

He noted that during the last three years, half of crime against people "on the grounds of race" and race hate crime has now overtaken sectarian crime.

In Mid and East Antrim, Ballymena District Electoral Area had the fifth highest incidents of hate crime in Northern Ireland during 2018/19, according to a report to the borough council.

A total of 159 hate crimes and incidents were recorded by police in the Ballymena area during this period. Of these, 126 had racist motivation, 30 had a sectarian motive and three were homophobic.

Tackling hate crime is a key priority highlighted by Mid and East Antrim Policing and Community Safety Partnership in 2020/21.

In Antrim and Newtownabbey, there was a rise in hate crimes and incidents last year with 109 reported compared to 92 in 2018.

Victim Support says that hate crime can be "any criminal or non-criminal act such as graffiti, vandalism to a property, name calling, assault or online abuse using social media".

From 2018/19, the charity's hate crime advocacy service received 823 referrals.

The Hate Crime Review consultation will remain open until April 30 as a result of coronavirus and following requests both from public bodies and individuals.

Belfast Telegraph