Review of Northern Ireland hate crime legislation to begin
The Department of Justice has commissioned an independent review of Northern Ireland's hate crime legislation, in a bid to make the reporting and sentencing procedure more easily understood.
The review is to be led by Judge Desmond Marrinan, who will spend the next 12 months formulating recommendations.
"This is all about finding better ways to tackle hate crime," said Judge Marrinan (70), who has a 47-year legal career behind him, including a spell as a lecturer in public law at Queen's University. He will maintain his current position as a Deputy County Court Judge alongside leading the review process.
"The department felt this review was important to make things simpler for victims to understand and for police and the legal system to act upon. We need a workable and agreed definition.
"Many people don't actually realise they have been the victim of a hate crime and if we can find a way of making it clear and accessible for all, then we will have done our job."
In 2016/17 eight reports of hate crime were received in Northern Ireland every day and statistics show the actual number of crimes could be much higher, with as many as one in six going unreported.
"At the minute hate crime is such a wide-ranging phrase and it's a phrase that's becoming more and more common," Judge Marrinan said. "My function is to produce the best report possible and that will be my main focus for the next 12 months."
Judge Marrinan expects to deliver a draft for consultation in October this year, with the full recommendations to be published in May 2020. Following publication it will be up to the Department of Justice to act on the recommendations.
Judge Marrinan and his four-man review team are keen to hear from other interested parties, particularly victims of hate crime, and can be contacted through hatecrimereviewni.org.uk.