Blog by Kathryn McNickle, Senior Policy Officer, Equality Commission NI
As we approach the first ever International Day for Countering Hate Speech
(18th June 2022), the Equality Commission continues to call for urgent action to tackle hate crime and hate speech here in Northern Ireland.
In her latest blog article, Kathryn McNickle, Senior Policy Officer at the Equality Commission, looks at this issue:
"If we are to see a society in Northern Ireland without hate crime and speech, it is vital to see progression of updated, harmonised, consolidated and strong hate crime legislation. However, wider measures are also needed to prevent and tackle the root causes of hate in our society.
Hate crime and speech is still far too common in Northern Ireland. PSNI statistics
(pdf) shows that, in the 12 months from 1st April 2021 to 31st March 2022, the number of racist, homophobic, disability and transphobic motivated crimes each recorded their highest figure since recording began in 2004/05. For instance, there were 633 racist hate crimes recorded in 2004/05 – this has risen to 931 such crimes last year. There has also been a sharp rise in recorded homophobic crimes since 2020
Prompt action by the DoJ, criminal justice agencies, and others is needed to address these issues, and any new Executive should treat it as a priority’ and ‘Political leaders, the DOJ, criminal justice agencies and others in positions of influence must take further action to combat hate speech. We recommend action to challenge prejudicial attitudes; that behaviour and hate crime should be addressed in the NI Executive’s Programme for Government; and public bodies and persons in positions of influence should provide strong and visible leadership. All of this should be underpinned by a holistic, co-ordinated, and collaborative approach."