New legislation for hate crime is a “welcome” move according to Sinn Féin TD Martin Browne.
The Criminal Justice (Incitement to Violence or Hatred and Hate Crime) Bill 2022 will make it easier to secure prosecutions and convictions for crimes motivated by hate.
The new law will legislate for hate crimes including new and aggravated forms of certain existing criminal offences if motivated by prejudice towards one of eight protected characteristics.
These characteristic include nationality, race, colour, ethnic or national origin, sexual orientation, gender (extending to gender expression and identity) and disability.
Deputy Martin Browne believes that while Sinn Fein will suggest amendments as the bill comes through the Dáil, the legislation is a step in the right direction.
Deputy Browne said: “We are probably all on social media at this stage. It’s ridiculous that we can go through social media pages and see the kind of stuff that they allow is actually frightening."
“Personally, I don’t believe anybody should be allowed online as an anonymous account. If you have something to say you come out and say it behind your own picture and your own profile, it’s very easy to be anonymous when you put out that bile that some people do.”
The law is an update of the current 1989 legislation and will extend to online hateful content.
Ireland currently does not have specific legislation dealing with hate crime however a hate motive is considered an aggravating factor judges can take into account when sentencing.
Deputy Browne believes the measure is timely, with Women’s Aid reporting that online abuse against women surged during the Covid- 19 pandemic.
Deputy Browne said: “We all have a responsibility when we see it going on in our own circles and groups that we need to call it out because if people don’t start calling it out, it starts becoming normal and that’s how it grows.
I think we all possibly have a role to play in stamping it out by telling friends or family that it’s not acceptable anymore.”
The Criminal Justice (Incitement to Violence or Hatred and Hate Crime) Bill 2022 is currently at the final drafting stage and is expected to be published in September and enacted by the end of the year.
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