On Wednesday, the EU agreed on a new law which establishes the rights of victims of crime, and makes specific provision for the personal characteristics of victims, including sexual orientation and gender identity and expression and whether the crime is a hate crime.
Currently, Ireland has no hate crime legislation in place.
It would seem logical that, if the State is required to support victims of hate crimes, that those crimes are themselves specified in legislation.
In addition, An Garda Síochána maintain statistics only for offences specified in legislation. In other words, the force does not maintain an official record of crimes motivated by racism, homophobia, or other bias.
In response to enquiries by Gaelick.com, a spokesperson for the Department of Justice and Equality stated that:
The Minister is committed to the introduction of a Criminal Justice (Victims Rights) Bill to strengthen the rights of victims of crime and their families and to give effect to the EU Directive at the earliest possible opportunity.
Preliminary work on the Bill has already commenced, however it is not possible, at this stage, to give a firm date for publication.
In relation to maintaining crime statistics, the Department states that the CSO takes the lead role in compiling this information as the national statistical agency. The Garda Síochána Act 2005 makes provision for this.
The statement added that the CSO can extract certain data on racially and homophobically motivated offences. On foot of Gaelick’s enquiries, the Department has requested that the CSO prepare some recent figures which will be provided at the earliest opportunity.
Homophobic attack on Svyatoslav Sheremet, Kiev.
Image: © Reuters; via All Out and The Daily Mail
The European Parliament adopted the Directive which establishes a set of measures to strengthen victims’ rights in the European Union, by setting minimum standards.
The Directive acknowledges the existence of specific protection needs of victims of crimes committed with a bias or discriminatory motive related to their personal characteristics.
According to ILGA-Europe, this Directive is the first international piece of legislation referring to gender expression. Its significance is that all trans and gender-variant people will be covered as will be all people who do not present their gender in a stereotyped way.
EU member states have up to 3 years to transpose the Directive into national law.
The key section of the EU law establishes the rights of victims regardless of their identity or expression:
(18) – Individual assessments should take into account the personal characteristics of the victim such as age, gender and gender identity or expression, ethnicity, race, religion, sexual orientation, health, disability, residence status, communication difficulties, relationship to or dependence on the offender, previous experience of crime, the type or nature of the crime or the circumstances of the crime such as hate crime, bias crime or crime committed with a discriminatory motive, sexual violence, violence in close relationships, where the offender was in a position of control, the victims residence is in a high crime or gang dominated area, or whether the victim is a foreigner.
The Directive also states:
(5) – Crime is a wrong against society as well as a violation of the individual rights of victims. As such, victims should be recognised and treated in a respectful, sensitive and professional manner without discrimination of any kind based on any ground such as race, colour, ethnic or social origin, genetic features, language, religion or belief, political or any other opinion, membership of a national minority, property, birth, disability, age, gender, gender expression, gender identity, sexual orientation, residence status or state of health.
In all contacts with any competent authority operating within the context of criminal proceedings, and any service coming into contact with victims, such as victim support service or restorative justice service victims’ personal situation and immediate needs, age, gender, possible disability and level of maturity should be taken into account while fully respecting their physical, mental and moral integrity. They should be protected from secondary and repeat victimisation and from intimidation, should receive appropriate support to facilitate their recovery and should be provided with sufficient access to justice.
The Directive took on board ILGA-Europe’s call for consideration of the situation of LGBTI victims of bias-motivated crimes and of gender-based violence. The Directive makes clear that these elements shall be taken as factors of an individual assessment of potential protection needs, offered to all victims.
ILGA-Europe will monitor the implementation of the Directive within EU member states. In particular, ILGA-Europe considers that the Directive’s provisions on victims support services, training of practitioners and co-operation of services working with victims must be transposed adequately to ensure that the identification of victims’ specific protection needs is really guaranteed.