Co-leader of the Social Democrats, Róisín Shortall TD, has condemned the attitude of the Department of Justice to hate crime as “pathetic, and demonstrating a total lack of urgency”.
After raising the matter with the Minister for Justice in the Dáil this morning Deputy Shortall described the Minister’s response as “the laissez faire attitude of a man unaffected by these sorts of crimes”.
Deputy Shortall explained:
“The publication of an ICCL report into hate crime should have served to finally put some urgency into the Minister and his Department’s response to hate crime. I’m shocked that he’s basically shrugged his shoulders and given the same lacklustre response we’ve been hearing since he took office.
The report, which was published yesterday, found that the lack of specific hate crime legislation has given rise to a “policy vacuum” and that the “hate” aspect of crimes is gradually filtered out as complaints make their way through the criminal justice system.
“The report gives clear evidence that legislation is needed and it’s needed now. Despite this, and the fact we have no dedicated law against violent hate crime, the Minister somehow thinks a long promised review is enough,” Deputy Shortall continued.
Deputy Shortall added:
“The crimes we are talking about are often horrific acts of violence, such as the assault against a same sex couple in Portlaoise last week. However, even on the lower end of the spectrum, the impact of hate motivated petty crimes like criminal damage can far outweigh their apparent severity.
“For example, this week reports emerged of a young man posting, in real time, on an online forum as he prepared to throw a rock with a homophobic message through the window of a gay bar. This was a petty and cowardly act of vandalism. However, as Emily Logan said yesterday, crimes like this serve as ‘a message crime’.
“They make people from minority communities think twice about their place in Irish society, while emboldening those who harbour views most of us find abhorrent. The State has a responsibility to make it clear that we will not stand for this. The Minister’s review is another unnecessary delay when what is needed is a comprehensive stand-alone legislation on hate crime.”