We need to recognise that for many people the corrosive daily experience of hate crime is all too common (Picture: Getty) When the government published the LGBT Action Plan earlier this year I was disappointed to see that it was not used as an opportunity to end the hierarchy in hate crime law.
At present, we have a legal anomaly which allows for tougher sentencing options for those convicted of racial and religious hate crimes compared to those hate crimes in which the victims were LGBT or disabled.
This is because racial and religious hate crimes are considered an aggravated offence, while LGBT and disability-related ones are not.
The most recent figures for recorded hate crime in the UK show a dramatic year-on-year increase. While recognising some of the rise can be connected to improvements in police practices and how they are recording data, Stonewall research still found that four in five anti-LGBT hate crimes go unreported. Younger LGBT people are particularly reluctant to go to the police.
Under-reporting of disability hate crimes is revealed by the Crime Survey. It estimated that there were 70,000 incidents which could potentially be defined as disability hate crimes. In contrast only 5,558 reports of disability hate crimes were made to the police in 2016-17.
When we read about hate crimes against LGBT or people with disabilities it tends to only be the extreme examples. Horrendous acts like the killing of Kevin Davies , a disabled man, who was imprisoned for months, fed scraps and tortured, or the stabbing to death of Naomi Hersi , a transgender woman.
We need to recognise that for many the corrosive daily experience of hate crime are all too common – cases such as W ill Mayrick being physically and verbally abused on a London underground train and forced to apologise for being gay.
All victims of hate crimes should have access to equal justice under the law. By creating a hierarchy with regards to sentencing options, we are failing to be consistent and letting victims down.
All hate crime is deplorable and has a devastating effect on the victims. The Law Commission has called for aggravated offences to be extended to include hostility based on transgender identity, sexual orientation and disability and I support this.
I welcome the announcement last week in parliament by justice minister Lucy Frazer that she would be asking the Law Commission to undertake a review of the coverage and approach of hate crime legislation. But that recommendation was made in 2014.
During my time as a member of parliament, I have too often seen reviews promised but never materialise or carried out, but delivery of the recommendations being delayed for years or not being put into action at all. This can’t be the case for hate crime.
This week, I wrote to the secretary of state for Justice, David Gauke. I asked him to both end the hierarchy of hate crime and to make a commitment to bring forward legislation based on the Law Commission’s recommendations. It would be immoral and dangerous for another Law Commission report on hate crime to sit on a shelf gathering dust for four more years.
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