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Reform of Hate Crime Legislation

Comment 1st July 2010

“Hate Crime” as currently understood is a flawed concept because it seeks to criminalise certain beliefs or opinions by focussing on a person’s supposed motivation for a criminal act, rather than on the act itself.  Thus, a man who beats someone up because they’re a member of a legally recognised minority is treated as a worse criminal than a man who beats them up for supporting the wrong football team or chatting up his girlfriend, because his crime is thought to be ideologically motivated.

This is a clear infringement of our liberty, as it seeks to police our attitudes and, in effect, criminalise certain thoughts.

I suggest that the distinction between “normal”  crimes against the person and “hate” crimes should be removed, so that there will be no difference between the treatment and sentencing of the two hypothetical criminals mentioned above.  We will then be punishing the act, while respecting the right of individuals to hold whatever believes, attitude and prejudices they like.

Why does this matter?

A very fundamental freedom is the freedom to hold our own opinions without the fear of being criminalised for them.

At present, if you attack someone for being black/white/Asian then you are punished not primarily for your act but for your racism, even though racism is an attitude which free people should be free to hold.  If someone commits a violent act because of his opinions or attitudes then it should only be the act that is punished, rather than the opinions which led to it.  This change would lead to that distinction being recognized.

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