28/02/2020

Justice Minister Encourages Reports Of Online Hate Crime

Justice Minister Naomi Long is urging victims of online hate crimes to file a report to police to allow them to get the support they need.

Ms Long encouraged members of the public to "call it out" and help police catch online perpetrators at an Online Hate Crime Event at Belfast City Hall.

"Just because someone hides behind the perceived anonymity of a keyboard, doesn't mean they are any less culpable or should not be called to account for their actions," the Minister said.

The NI-wide Online Hate Crime Event was organised by the Belfast Policing and Community Safety Partnership and PSNI.

Naomi Long said: "Whether offline or online, targeting a person because of who they are or what they believe – be it their race, religion, political belief, sexuality, gender identity or disability – is wrong.

"When someone has been verbally or physically assaulted in the street, we encourage victims to report it – and this is no different when it comes to online abuse.
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"A growing awareness of the mental and physical toll online abuse can have on victims means there is now more of a tendency to 'call it out' but it is really important that these crimes – because that's what they are – are reported so victims can get the support they need and perpetrators can be caught."

The call follows an independent review of hate crime legislation and the potential for enhanced sentences, additional categories of crimes and restorative justice.

A consultation is currently seeking public opinion on a range of hate crime options to improve and strengthen the law.

Just over eight hate incidents are reported every day in Northern Ireland, a higher figure than the equivalent rate in England and Wales, according to the Department of Justice appointed Judge Desmond Marrinan.

In 2017/18 racist hate crimes outnumbered sectarian hate crimes for the first time in the region, and this trend continued for the most recent figures for 2018/19 with 702 racist hate crimes recorded for that year as compared to 622 sectarian hate incidents.

Responses to the consultation, available online, will be welcomed until the closing date of 31 March.



(JG/CM)

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