Hate Crime an Inspection of the Criminal Justice System's response to Hate Crime in N.I.

Publication: 05/12/17
Inspectors call for wider government approach to address hate crime

Criminal Justice Inspection Northern Ireland (CJI) has published the findings of its latest inspection of how hate crime is dealt with by the criminal justice system in Northern Ireland and the continuing challenges being faced by victims.

“Every hate crime is a failure for our society and in 2016 over eight hate incidents were reported to the police every single day,” said Brendan McGuigan, Chief Inspector of Criminal Justice in Northern Ireland.
 
“This figure was higher than the equivalent rate in England and Wales and when considered alongside those incidents we know are not being reported, but are equally damaging to individuals, the situation is stark.
 
“The clear message heard by Inspectors who spoke to victims of hate crime was that they wanted the intolerance to stop and perpetrators to understand the consequences of their actions and their behaviours,” he said.
 
Mr McGuigan said that while criminal justice organisations had taken positive steps to improve how they responded to and supported individuals impacted by hate crime, through the funding of initiatives such as the Hate Crime Advocacy Service, it was a societal problem that could not be dealt with by the criminal justice system alone.
 
“Tackling hate crime is an issue which requires leadership from civic society supported by a holistic approach led by wider government,” said Mr McGuigan.
 
"That is why I have taken the unusual step of recommending the Department of Justice’s (DoJ’s) Hate Crime Strategy should be linked to the Northern Ireland Executive's Together: Building United Communities strategy or any future cohesion, sharing and integration policy. 
 
“I believe this would help tackle the factors that enable hate crime through a cross-departmental approach which could be monitored and linked to outcome-based accountability measures," said Mr McGuigan.
 
In support of this wider approach, the Chief Inspector said the report made a number of recommendations to improve the criminal justice system’s response to hate crime in Northern Ireland.
 
“The report identified that specific statutory offences such as hate crimes of assault and criminal damage had been introduced in England and Wales over and above the enhanced sentencing powers that were available in Northern Ireland.
 
“I have therefore recommended that the DoJ conduct a review of hate crime legislation in Northern Ireland to establish if change is required and whether the introduction of statutory offences, similar to those in England and Wales, would be beneficial," said Mr McGuigan.
 
The Chief Inspector also called for the Police Service of Northern Ireland to use hate crime specific scenarios when training officers so that they could understand how best to overcome barriers when interviewing victims and witnesses of hate incidents to achieve the best evidence available. 
 
The Northern Ireland Prison Service has also been urged to immediately develop and implement a hate crime strategy.
 
In conclusion, the Chief Inspector of Criminal Justice said: "The whole of society, including leaders at every level, have a responsibility to recognise the damaging impact hate crime has on communities and to confront and find solutions to it.  
 
“There must be a clear unequivocal, consistent message that hate incidents cannot and will not be tolerated and individuals must have the courage and confidence to challenge hate incidents that occur,” he stated.