Leading judge to head up review of hate crime legislation
CROWN Court Judge Desmond Marrinan is to carry out an independent review of hate crime legislation in Northern Ireland in order to extend cover to marginalised communities currently not protected by legislation.
The review is expected to recommend a workable and agreed definition of a hate crime and whether the current enhanced sentence approach is appropriate for Northern Ireland.
It will also examine whether new categories of hate crime should be created for characteristics currently not covered by current legislation.
Race, religious belief, sexual orientation, political opinion, gender identity and disability do fall under current legislation.
But the review will look at the definition and scope of the current criteria to see if it needs clarified or extended.
Judge Marrinan, who has 15-years' experience on the bench, will be supported by a reference group, comprising a number of relevant experts, and a broader forum of key stakeholders who he will meet with to discuss the best way forward.
It is expected that the review will provide a written report for consideration to the Department of Justice by May 2020.
His findings are likely to include a number of both legislative and non legislative measures.
However, as with previous legal reviews, including the recently released report by Sir John Gillen into sexual crimes, any change to the hate crime legislation will be dependent on the restoration of Stormont and a sitting Justice Minister and executive.
It comes on the back of a similar review commissioned in England by the Home Office.
The Law Commission, an independent body that recommends legal reforms, is currently looking at whether there are any gaps in hate crime legislation as part of a package of measures announced by the Home Office last year.
Both misogyny- prejudice against women - and misandry- prejudice against men - are currently under consideration by the review, as will attitudes towards alternative lifestyles such as goth subculture, and age.
A completed review of the legislation in Scotland published its findings in May of last year, conducted by Lord Bracadale, among his recommendations was new legislation to cover "stirring up of hatred offences" extending to all groups protected by existing hate legislation.
Justice Marrinan will also look at the current laws covering hate speech in Northern Ireland and whether they need clarified or extended.
Any individual or group who wish to contact Justice Marrinan's Review Team can do so by telephone 028 90261395 or by visiting www.hatecrimereviewni.org.uk