Alliance Party Justice and Human Rights spokesperson, Stephen Farry, has responded to the criticism of the proposed Hate Crimes legislation for Northern Ireland, voiced by Billy Armstrong former Ulster Unionist MLA for Mid-Ulster.
Dr Farry stated:
“I am surprised at the opposition to this move from the UUP. Hate crimes are well established in the United States and Canada. They were first introduced into England and Wales in 1998, and into Scotland earlier this year. A Home Office sponsored study has vindicated this approach to criminal justice.
“Attacks motivated by prejudice are an ongoing problem in Northern Ireland. Sectarianism is not something that is just practiced by Protestants against Catholics, but rather something that is multidirectional and multidimensional. Such laws would cover, for example, attacks upon Orange halls and attacks upon GAA facilities, both of which are sadly common occurrences.
“There is a clear obligation on the state, backed up by European human rights law, to investigate every crime, and to prosecute where appropriate. Hate crime measures only become relevant with respect to sentencing.
“Such crimes are not just offences against the individual victim, but against the vision of a shared and inclusive society. They are not perceived by the community as purely random acts, but targeted against the victims because of certain actual or perceived characteristics. Therefore such attacks spread fear through certain sections of society.”