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UL report on the treatment of hate crime in the criminal justice system launched

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Jennifer Schweppe (School of Law) and Amanda Haynes (Department of Sociology), co-directors of the Hate and Hostility Research Group, launched one of four outputs of their 2015-2017 research on the treatment of hate crime in the criminal justice system, which was funded by EU Rights, Equality and Citizenship Programme.

The Report, co-authored by Schweppe and Haynes with Mark A. Walters of Sussex University, presents a comparative analysis of five jurisdictions’ approach to addressing hate crime through the legal process. Spanning both common law and civil law systems, the jurisdictions addressed in the Report include Ireland, England and Wales, Sweden, the Czech Republic and Latvia.

Adopting a socio-legal methodology, the Report compares and contrasts doctrinal analysis of black letter law and the operation of the law in practice across the five states. The Report incorporates an analysis of European legislation and international obligations in respect to combating hate crime, as well as an analysis of the obstacles to comparative statistical analysis of the prevalence and processing of hate crime across European Member States, and an evaluation of the extent to which the Victims’ Directive is being implemented in respect to those affected by hate crime.

The findings of the Report are grounded in twenty four months of research, including the secondary analysis of domestic and EU policy documents; analysis of official statistics; the review of case law and legislation; and qualitative in-depth interviews with 287 justice practitioners (including judges, lawyers, police officers, victim advocates) as well as interviews and focus groups with 61 users of the justice system (victims and offenders).

Although all five jurisdictions to the project asserted compliance with Article 4 of the Framework Decision on Combating Certain Forms and Expressions of Racism and Xenophobia (2008/913/JHA), the Report identifies shortfalls in the implementation of Article 4 in practice. Identifying good practices in the investigation, prosecution and sentencing of hate crime, the Report recommends the development of:

  • A common definition of hate crime in and across Europe
  • EU Action Plan on Hate Crime
  • EU analysis of the prevalence and impacts of hate crime
  • Evidence informed assessment of compliance

At the level of Member States, the Report recommends the development of:

  • National Action Plans on Hate Crime
  • Jurisdictionally appropriate legislation
  • Specialisms in investigation and prosecution
  • A common understanding of hate crime across the criminal process
  • Victim support through the criminal process
  • Data collection by state and civil society organisations

The Report was launched by Lynn Boylan MEP at the EU Parliament Buildings. The launch was attended by Irish MEPs, including MEP Seán Kelly, MEP Liadh Ní Riada and MEP Martina Anderson, as well and European MEPs and EU officials.

Speaking at the launch, Amanda Haynes, co-author of the report, said:

“The report finds that, across the EU, this is a serious social issue which is generally inadequately dealt with. This is despite legislation such as the EU Victims’ Directive putting specific obligations on States with regard to victims of hate crime.”

Jennifer Schweppe, co-author, said:

“The report shows that effective response requires clear laws, training of officials at all levels, and good systems of data collection and communication.”

The report is the product of collaborative research lead by the ICCL, along with the Hate and Hostility Research Group of University of Limerick; IN IUSTITIA, Czech Republic; Latvian Centre for Human Rights; Umeå University, Sweden; and the University of Sussex, United Kingdom.

Liam Herrick, director of the Irish Council for Civil Liberties said:

“Effective response means more than just harsher sentences to aggravated offences. It also means recognising the special vulnerability of victims and designing specialist interventions for offenders such as restorative justice in order to prevent reoffending.”

The Hate and Hostility Research Group, University of Limerick, is the only research group in Ireland which is dedicated to the study of hate crime.

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