Introducing Hate Crimes legislation into Northern Ireland sooner rather than later would ensure that those behind attacks on members of ethnic minorities get stiffer sentences, an Alliance Councillor has said after a racist attack on a Muslim family in Portadown.
Councillor Tom Ekin, whose South Belfast constituency has suffered a number of recent race-related attacks, said that Hate Crimes legislation was designed to ensure stiffer sentences for racist attacks. He added that he hoped that judges would not be afraid to use it once introduced.
Cllr Ekin said: “Alliance has long been pressing for the introduction of Hate Crimes legislation in Northern Ireland, but while the problem of racist attacks gets worse, the Government has acted slowly.
“Hate Crimes legislation would allow judges to hand out stiffer sentences to those found guilty of a crime where, for example, there was a clear racist or sectarian motive, such as the attack on a Muslim family in Portadown at the weekend.
“These cowardly attacks are wrong and I would call on those behind them to stop before someone is hurt or killed. While the British and Irish governments’ Joint Communiqué said Hate Crimes legislation would be introduced in the next Parliamentary session, it has been used in Great Britain since 1998. Why the delay here, where it is most needed?
“Introducing the new laws here quickly would send out a signal that society will not tolerate racist behaviour and that there are consequences for it.”