ALLIANCE has questioned the need to further delay the introduction of Hate Crimes legislation to deal with racist attacks in Northern Ireland.
Responding to the statement in today’s Joint Communique that the British Government intends to ‘announce the outcome of the consultation on racist and sectarian offences by September, and bring forward legislation in the next session of Parliament’, Alliance Party Justice Spokesperson, Dr Stephen Farry, stated:
“Racist and sectarian crimes are far too prevalent in Northern Ireland at present. In particular, there has been a noticeable rise in racist attacks in South Belfast recently.
“Stiffer sentences for racist crimes have existed in Great Britain since 1998. These were extended in 2001 to cover sectarian crime. However, Northern Ireland has been left behind.
“The NIO finished a consultation exercise to extend these measures at the end of February. While welcoming today’s commitment to legislating for Northern Ireland, I must question the need to delay announcing the results of the consultation exercise and getting the legislation in place.
“There may be difficulties in finding parliamentary time for new legislation, but a Criminal Justice Bill, which relates in part to Northern Ireland, is currently under consideration in Parliament.
“Given the recent upsurge in racist attacks, the Government may have missed an opportunity to send a powerful message that such behaviour will not be tolerated.”