Public Urged To Help Develop New Hate Crime Bill

Justice Minister Naomi Long has announced the launch of a new public consultation on the development of a Hate Crime Bill, which will be taken forward in the next Assembly mandate.

Calling for input from the public on the Bill, Naomi Long said: "As Justice Minister, one of my key priorities has been to improve support and legislative protections for victims. When someone is targeted because of who they are, where they are from, or what they believe, it is simply unacceptable. More than that, it is wrong and it is criminal. Hate crime can take many forms and as a society we all need to play our part in helping to combat it.

"That is why I am proposing that a new Hate Crime Bill be introduced for Northern Ireland, building on recommendations from a comprehensive and wide-ranging independent review of hate crime legislation commissioned by the Department of Justice and carried out by Judge Desmond Marrinan."

The Public consultation will be undertaken in two phases. Phase one, which began today and runs for eight weeks, will publicly consult on a number of policy issues currently being developed for a forthcoming Hate Crime Bill, with plans for a second public consultation in the new mandate on the remaining issues.

The first phase will focus on the following areas:

• A new statutory aggravation model, which will allow the 'hate' factor of an offence to be recognised at the start of the investigation stage, through the prosecution process and on conviction;

• Sectarian Offending - definition of sectarianism and a proposed sectarian aggravator in the context of hate crime;

• Stirring Up Offences including the repeal of the dwelling defence and replacing it with a private conversations defence; and asking if the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) should personally take decisions for stirring up hatred prosecutions;

• Special measures and protection from cross-examination for victims of hate crime; and

• A call for views, exploring Misogyny/Transmisogyny in Hate Crime Law.

The Justice Minister added: "My Department has already engaged in a series of targeted workshops with partners and presentations have also been provided to organisations as a pre-cursor to this public consultation, including those who represent victims of hate crime protected categories, to keep them informed of progress and hear their views on any particular issues of interest.

"We must do all we can to protect victims of hate crime and we must also try to prevent these incidents happening in the first place. We now have a real opportunity to put effective and robust legislation in place. I am keen to hear from organisations and individuals on how we take these recommendations forward and would encourage as many people as possible to share their thoughts through this consultation."

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