96. Deputy Eamon Ryan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the status of plans to legislate for a hate crime to be considered as an aggravating factor in the sentencing of crimes; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [49978/18]
Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Charles Flanagan): There is a wide body of criminal law which is used to combat hate crimes. Where criminal offences such as assault, criminal damage, or public order offences are committed with a racist motive, they are prosecuted as generic offences through the wider criminal law. The trial judge can take aggravating factors, including homophobic or racist motivation, into account at sentencing.
There is also specific legislation in place in the form of the Prohibition of Incitement to Hatred Act 1989 which creates offences of incitement to hatred on account of race, religion, nationality, ethnic origin or sexual orientation. Under the provisions of the Act, it is an offence to use words, engage in behaviour, publish or distribute written material, or broadcast any visual images or sounds which are threatening, abusive or insulting and are intended, or are likely, to stir up hatred. “Hatred” is defined as “hatred against a group of persons in the State or elsewhere on account of their race, colour, nationality, religion, ethnic or national origins, membership of the travelling community or sexual orientation.” The provisions of the 1989 Act are currently under review within my Department.
There has been significant research carried out into the nature and prevalence of hate crimes in Ireland recently, notably the 'Lifecycle of a Hate Crime' report published by the Irish Council for Civil Liberties and the University of Limerick. This work provides important input into Government policy around hate crimes and Minister Stanton has met with the authors of this report to gain insight into their research.
Minister Stanton and I remain committed to ensuring that Ireland is a safe and secure country for all who live here, regardless of their identity.