Northern Ireland

Current laws 'not working' to tackle Northern Ireland hate crime

Window boarded up after racist attack on family home
Image caption Hate crime attacks have forced a number of families out of their homes in Northern Ireland

Current legislation used to deal with hate crimes in Northern Ireland "is not working in any satisfactory way," according to a judge.

Desmond Marrinan, who is midway through a year-long review, was speaking as he launched a public consultation aimed at improving things.

According to PSNI figures, eight hate crime incidents are reported each day.

Northern Ireland is the only part of the UK which does not have specific hate crime laws.

Instead, it relies on legislation which allows for increased sentences if offences were motivated by hostility based on race, religion, disability or sexual orientation.

The review may suggest extending this to cover gender and age.

Judge Marrinan said figures appear to illustrate the existing legislation "has not been working well".

Image copyright Michael Cooper
Image caption Desmond Marrinan is halfway through his review

Last year, 13 defendants were convicted in the crown court for offences shown to have been hate crime incidents, but none received an increased sentence.

The review will produce a final report with recommendations for the Department of Justice (DoJ) in about six months time.

As well as considering legislative change, it will come up with an agreed definition of hate crime.

It will also look at current laws used to tackle online hate speech, but this is complicated by the fact the regulation of internet services is not a devolved matter.

The review began its work last June.

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