Alliance Party Justice Spokesperson, Councillor Stephen Farry, has welcomed the publication of draft legislation for Hate Crimes laws by the NIO, but called for a firm legislative timetable to be drawn up for legislation to be passed.
Dr Farry stated:
“I am pleased that another small step has been taken on the long road to introducing Hate Crimes legislation in Northern Ireland.
“Northern Ireland has been calling out for Hate Crime laws for years. Crimes motivated by sectarianism have been a major scourge in this society for years. Crimes motivated by racism and homophobia have always been present, but have come much more to the fore in recent years.
“Hate crimes are not only offences against the individual victim, but against wider society. They spread a climate of fear throughout the community. It is right that this is reflected through stiffer sentences.
“However, I am frustrated at the delays in getting such laws onto the statute books.
“Similar legislation has been present in England and Wales since 1998, and in Scotland since early 1993. Alliance first made proposals on Hate Crimes to then Secretary of State Peter Mandelson in July 2000. Action in this area was then announced to the Labour Party Conference by John Reid in September 2001. A consultation document was finally published in January 2003. A commitment to draft legislation was then made by the Secretary of State to the Labour Party Conference in September 2003. This is only being published today, almost six months later.
“I appreciate that the consultation period for this legislation is short. But the Government should now give firm commitments to a timetable for the formal introduction of these laws.”