13/02/2006

Police launch campaign to tackle hate crime

The PSNI are today staging a major conference on human rights and hate crime in Belfast.

Over 200 delegates are expected to attend the conference, which will address the issue of racism, homophobia, sectarianism, faith/religion crimes, and crimes against people with disabilities.

The conference is set to coincide with a poster campaign aimed to raise awareness of the increasing hate crime, with the simple message 'Hate Crime is Wrong.'

The campaign has been designed to make people in the community think about the issue, and to give advice to potential victims.

It also promotes the new online facility to enable such crimes to be reported through the Internet, at www.psni.police.uk.

Police figures have revealed that there were 697 racial incidents between April and December 2005 compared to the 624 in the same period in the previous year.

The number of homophobic incidents had also increased, as had religion/faith crime, disability attacks and those of a sectarian nature.

Opening the seminar in Belfast today, Chief Constable Hugh Orde said that the problem of hate crime was rapidly increasing in Northern Ireland. He said: “The biggest challenge facing the Police Service is increasing the number of persons detected and prosecuted for hate crimes. I recently approved, along with my senior command, the implementation of a new Hate Incident policy, which I believe will deliver a more consistent and effective police response to hate incidents.

“The ‘Hate Crime’ legislation recently introduced to Northern Ireland, I believe, creates an opportunity for the courts to send out a very clear message that hate related crimes will not be tolerated. The challenge for the Police Service is to ensure that those responsible are identified and held to account. Whilst the detection rates very slowly continue to rise, we recognise that this is an important confidence issue for minority groups."

The Chief Constable added that the increasing diversity in the province should be considered a strength and not a weakness and should be celebrated, not feared.

He concluded by saying that the PSNI will do everything it can to ensure that "individuals from all backgrounds can live free from prejudice, fear and discrimination.”

(EF/SP)

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