There should be no legislation against ‘hate’ crime

I hope that got your attention. However, this post is about defining terms well so that your business architecture and how your business operates does not get bloated simply because people conflate different concepts.

I’m using the concept of ‘hate’ crime because I happen to be discussing the topic with someone on Twitter and it illustrates an important point about modelling business concepts.

Having seen a tweet decrying the fact that Ireland does not have any legislation against hate crime, I tweeted: ‘I don’t understand ‘hate crime’ laws. If someone [intentionally] stabs me, should it matter whether they hated me or not? Feel free to educate me.’

Moreover, if someone stabbed me, I would not want them to receive a different punishment based on whether their motivation was my skin colour, or the fact that I’m bald, or robbery, or anything else. I would certainly want the motivation to be recorded, however. By the way, I was assaulted once, by someone who made it clear with their words that the motivation was my skin-colour.

In response, I was sent the following argument:

Yes, it does matter. Obviously, any crime impacts on a victim. Hate crime has further impact as hate crime victims imply assert that their experience was an unlucky occurrence (wrong place, wrong time), they are forced to accept that their identity was targeted and they remain at risk of repeat victimisation. Fear of being targeted impacts on the way people live their lives, with victims changing the way they live, limiting their use of public space, etc. Hate crime’s ripple effect is also significant. As well as impacting on the victim, it sends a message to that community.

It would seem, therefore, that the intent is to acknowledge the motivation for the crime and to use that knowledge to educate victims and society at large and to enable us to tackle the root causes of such motivations and therefore the crimes themselves.

However, to achieve that, you don’t need separate legislation against attempted murder and attempted murder because the perpetrator hates, say, people with brown skin. You simply need to be able to record the motivation for the crime against the crime itself. One crime on the statute books, many possible motivations for that crime. That would be sufficient to provide the data needed for education and prevention programmes.

Having separate legislation for each motivation has several disadvantages without improving data for education and prevention:

  • Increased statutes and the corresponding time and effort involved in debating and adding such statutes
  • Operational overhead in having to add a new statute each time a new motivation is uncovered (as opposed to simply adding a new motivation to an existing statute)
  • Risk of allowing different levels of sanction against the same crime for different motivations

For those who want particular hate crimes, or hate crimes in general, to be addressed, it would be quicker, more effective and cheaper to campaign to have a new motivation added to crime reporting than to have a new statute added.

Actions and the reasons for those actions are related but distinct. Modelling them as the same thing makes for inefficient and ineffective operations, whether in terms of criminal statutes or business operations.

I have another reason for being against “hate” crime legislation. Once you allow the government to criminalise hate itself (as opposed to actions, probably already illegal, motivated by hate), you allow the government to define what constitutes “hate”. Do you really want to open a door that could allow the government to define criticism of a minister as “hate”?

Is there a flaw in my reasoning? Let me know. If you can sell me your argument, I’ll spin on a sixpence.

Kind regards.

Declan Chellar

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