15/10/2013

Justice Department To Tackle Hate Crime

Justice Minister David Ford has outlined some of the strategies to be undertaken by his Department and the PSNI to tackle hate crime in Northern Ireland.

The Minister was responding to a report by the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission into the criminal justice system's response to tackling racist hate crime.

"The system is working hard to deliver for victims," he said.

"The PSNI, Public Prosecution Service and the courts are working very closely together and individually to improve."

"By Autumn 2014, we hope to have in place a 'data capture' system which will accurately record the flow of hate crime cases through the system enabling agencies to identify issues or areas for improvement.

"The PSNI is also carrying out an ongoing review and sample exercise of hate crime cases to ensure good practice and lessons learned on investigative standards. They are also developing a hate crime toolkit for all officers."

A new five-year Victim and Witness Strategy is to be introduced.

The Strategy will introduce several modifications to the way in which hate crimes are dealt with in Northern Ireland, including a requirement for victims to be provided with information at key milestones throughout the criminal justice process and a statutory entitlement to make a written personal statement setting out how crime has affected them.

Delivering the keynote address at the event at Stormont, Minister Ford said: "The criminal justice system has a major role to play in tackling hate crime. Victims of hate crime need the support, professionalism and guidance of a system, where each agency clearly understands their role and delivers on it.

"I know that has not always been the case. But the improvements have been vast and I welcome that this has been recognised in a number of reports, including the Human Rights Commission report published today.

"Hate is sadly evident within society. The criminal justice system is dealing with the manifestation of a problem that extends far beyond our remit. There is therefore also a clear role for other Government Departments and indeed wider society to tackle hate crime."

(IT/JP)

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