Hate Crime: Legislation, Cases, and Laws by Country

Hate crime is a special kind of crime. Hate isn't a crime itself. If it were, most of us would land in jail a few times a year. But when someone creates a crime based in hate it has broader social ramifications.

Hate Crime: Legislation, Cases, and Laws by Country

Hate crime is an "enhancer." When a person commits a crime and does so because of their hatred of that person because of their race, religion, or a number of other social attributes, governments in the US, UK, Canada, and Australia usually punish the perpetrator more harshly.

In this article, we will provide an overview of hate crime in these countries. After that, we will look at the specific aspects of hate crime in each country.

An Overview of Hate Crime

Hate crime, also referred to as bias-motivated crime, is when a person is attacked for being associated with a certain social, ethnic, or religious organization, or for their sexual orientation, nationality, physical appearance, handicap, or gender identity.

Hate crimes are often considered to be a "message crime," where the offender uses the crime to send a clear message to the targeted person or group.

Hate crimes involve a diverse number of groups. As an example of how far-reaching the problem can be, police in Greater Manchester, England in 2013 began recording attacks on Goths, Punks and other alternative culture groups as hate crimes.

Hate Crime Legislation

As early as the Civil Rights Act of 1968 in the US, hate crime became part of the law. In 1994, the US passed the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act. It required that sentencing take into account hatred of a group. After that, not much was done in the US except for the failed Church Arson Prevention Act in 1996.

It was only as recently as 1998, in the United Kingdom, that hateful behavior towards a victim based on membership of a racial or religious group was made an aggravation in sentencing for specific crimes by the Crime and Disorder Act for England, Scotland and Wales.

Northern Ireland has the Public Order Act 1987, which serves the same purpose.

The Criminal Justice Act 2003 puts the onus on a court to consider whether a crime which is not actually specified by the Crime and Disorder Act 1998 is racially or religiously aggravated.

As a result, the court has to consider whether the offense committed was based on hostility towards a person's presumed sexual orientation, disability or other factors.

Around 1998, all four countries started to create legislation against hate crimes, and have largely been consistent since that time.

Reasons Behind Hate Crime

Hate crimes come in many forms. The top motivators of hate crimes are listed below:

  • Racial Prejudice and Discrimination — prejudice occurs when a person irrationally directs their anger towards a group, person, or entire race.

    Recent studies show that racism is a learned rather than innate emotion. The "us" and "them" attitude has a foundation in ancient times, and is territorial in nature.

    In the US in 2012, 48.3 percent of the 5,790 single-bias incidents reported in the Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) reporting were racially motivated.

    Statistics Canada has collated the latest set of crime figures which cover 2012 and there were a total of 1,414 police reported hate-motivated crime incidents during this twelve month period.

    Almost 50% of these reported crimes were ethnically or racially motivated hatred.

    Australia has long had its share of pro-white groups and there has been a recent increase in activities online as a result of an apparent rise in anti-Islamic sentiment.

    The Australian Defence League is seen as one of the largest militant groups and many of these activists, use online resources like Facebook to peddle their own beliefs and perpetrate acts of hate crime.

    Sadly, it is not just extremist groups who spread racist hate. In 2013, the UK Home Office was subjected to criticism for deploying a series of vans with a message urging illegal immigrants to "go home or face arrest."

    • And many hate organizations still exist today -- some dating back over a century. In the US, there are the White Aryan Resistance, the Ku Klux Klan (KKK) and the National Association for the Advancement of White People.

    • Hate crimes are not limited to whites. Despite the perceived profile of someone with a racial prejudice, as many a 57% of hate crime offenders of racially motivated crimes identified in a British Crime survey were not white. We may not be color blind, but hate is.

  • Religious and Political Prejudice — people are sometimes targeted because of their religious or political beliefs. Sometimes a spike in hate crimes can occur following a terrorist attack, as was the case following the tragedy of September 11, 2001, and the July 7, 2005 bomb attacks in London, where Muslims and people of Middle Eastern descent were the focus of a near 600% spike in hate crimes.

  • Sexual Orientation — although the laws are now changing for gay couples who wish to marry (it is legal everywhere but Northern Ireland), homosexuals and bisexuals are often victims of prejudice, violence, and discrimination. Homophobia is a serious threat to those who want to be free to express their sexual orientation. Past attitudes have meant that children sometimes learn this type of discrimination as it is passed down from generation to generation.

Recent Hate Crime Cases

It's hard to give an overview of the important instances of hate crimes, but this list will give you some idea of just how widespread and horrific these crimes are.

James Byrd Jr Lynching

One of the most shocking hate crimes of recent times was the lynching-style murder of 49-year-old James Byrd Jr on June 7, 1998, by three white men in Texas.

Byrd was on a Texas road close to the town of Jasper when Shawn Berry, Lawrence Brewer, and John King offered him a ride. Authorities later reported that Byrd and Berry knew each other.

The men savagely beat Byrd and then chained his ankles to the back of Berry's pickup truck. They dragged him three miles over asphalt roads, causing severe injuries. Byrd remained conscious during most of the ordeal, finally dying when his body hit a culvert in the road.

The police promptly arrested the three men and charged them with capital murder. They tried each man separately. The authorities considered King the ringleader and learned that he and Brewer were part of a white supremacy group.

The two men reportedly met in prison years earlier when they joined the gang. Both men were sentenced to death, and Brewer was killed by lethal injection.

Berry, who is serving life in prison, escaped a capital punishment sentence because prosecutors determined he was not a racist.

James Byrd's death prompted important legislation, which was originally enacted in the Texas courts in 2001. In 2009, President Barack Obama signed the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr Hate Crimes Prevention Act into law.

Matthew Shepard Murder

On October 12, 1998, Aaron McKinney and Russell Henderson beat 21-year-old University of Wyoming student Matthew Shepard, an openly gay man, to death. He spent five days in a coma before dying of his injuries.

Shepard met McKinney and Henderson in a local bar called the Fireside Lounge. McKinney and Henderson had been drinking and they told Shepard they were gay so they could lure him to their truck.

McKinney pulled out a gun and told Shepard to give him his wallet. When Shepard said no, McKinney struck him with the gun. Henderson was behind the wheel while McKinney continued to beat Shepard. McKinney allegedly tied Shepard's beaten body to a wooden split-rail post fence and took his wallet and shoes as he continued to beat him. They then left him to die.

On April 5, 1999, 22-year-old McKinney was found guilty of felony murder, second-degree murder, kidnapping, and robbery. His accomplice, 21-year-old Russell Henderson, pleaded guilty to kidnapping and felony murder. Both men were given two consecutive life sentences, however, McKinney's sentence has no possibility of parole, while Henderson's does.

The crime sparked the enactment of the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr Hate Crimes Prevention Act as a rider to the National Defense Authorization Act for 2010 (H.R. 2647). During 2012, 19.6 percent of the 5,790 single-bias incidents were due to sexual orientation bias.

The Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr Hate Crimes Prevention Act: A Closer Look

President Obama signed the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr Hate Crimes Prevention Act (P.L. #111-84) into law in 2009. It went into effect immediately as part of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2010.

The purpose of the act was to expand on the 1969 United States federal hate crime laws to include crimes motivated by a victim's actual or perceived gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability.

The Matthew Shepard act enables the government to provide grants and assistance to state and local authorities that are investigating and prosecuting hate crimes.

When Matthew Shepard was beaten to death in 1998, the Laramie, Wyoming, police department requested assistance from the US Department of Justice.

At the time, federal law did not cover crimes motivated by anti-lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT ) sentiment, so the department could not help. The prosecution was so expensive that Laramie had to furlough its law enforcement officers.

This act ensures that local law enforcement has the resources needed to address hate crimes on a broader scale across the board. While it expands on the federally protected classes, it also provides a layer of protection within the civil rights landscape.

Notable provisions of the relatively new federal law include:

  • Giving assistance to state, local, and tribal law enforcement officials during criminal prosecutions and investigations, including technical and forensic support.

  • Expanding statistical data collection to include information on crimes committed by or directed against juveniles.

  • Through the Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, authorizing grants for programs to train local law enforcement officers how to stop hate crimes committed by juveniles.

  • Providing reports on federal mandatory minimum sentencing by the US Sentencing Commission.

Islamic Center of Greater Toledo Arson

On September 30, 2012, the Islamic Center of Greater Toledo witnessed an arson attack by Randolph Linn who entered the building and set fire to the prayer room.

Linn drove to the Islamic Center with numerous firearms and three red gas cans. He stopped at a gas station to fill the gas cans before continuing onto the Islamic Center.

He entered the prayer room on the second floor and set fire to a large rug used for prayer services. Linn said he intentionally set fire to the rug because of the religious character of the Islamic Center property.

The fire caused significant damage to the interior of the building before the overhead sprinkler system finally extinguished it. Law enforcement authorities arrested Linn three days later.

In April 2013, Linn was sentenced to 20 years in prison for hate crimes. Linn pleaded guilty in December to three counts:

  • Intentionally defacing, damaging and destroying religious real property because of the religious character of that property.

  • Using fire to commit a felony.

  • Using and carrying a firearm to commit a crime of violence.

Following the sentencing, Deputy Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division, Roy L Austin Jr, said:

The Civil Rights Division will continue to partner with the FBI and US Attorney's Offices around the country to ensure that anyone who desecrates or burns a place of religious worship because of the creed practiced there is brought to justice.

Lee Rigby

The murder of soldier Lee Rigby in May 2013 caused a huge rise in the number of hate crimes against Muslims in the UK. Hundreds of anti-Muslim offenses were carried out throughout the country in 2013, such as the petrol bomb attack outside the Grimsby Islamic Cultural Centre. The fatal attack on Rigby by two Islamic extremists in Woolwich, south-east London, was the perceived motivation for so-called revenge attacks.

The Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) reported that just five days after Rigby's murder, 71 separate incidents were reported to its national community tension team. The role of APCO is to improve reporting mechanisms through the development of its True Vision website, which provides information to victims and allows people to report incidents online.

Pig's Head

Liam Ferrar from Leicester, England was successfully prosecuted in 2013 for leaving a frozen pig's head outside a Muslim community center with the intention of causing harassment, alarm, and distress, according to the charges brought against him. He received a suspended sentence and was ordered to complete 250 hours of community service.

Transsexual Murder

Robyn Browne was a pre-operative transsexual who worked as a prostitute in the London area. Browne was murdered by James Hopkins from Leeds, England in 1997, but Hopkins was only caught and sentenced in 2007.

There have been a number of similar high-profile transsexual murder trials. These include the case of Neil McMillan, who received a life sentence for murdering Andrea Waddell in Brighton, and Leon Fyle, who was convicted of murdering Destiny Lauren in North London.

Canada Seeing Increase in Hate Crime

From 2014 to 2016, Canada saw an increased level of hate crimes, probably because of the rise of far-right and fascist groups. The targets tended toward the LGBT members as well as those of Jewish descent. But there were also more attacks on Arabs and people from south, west, and southeastern Asia.

Australian Attacks on Indian Students

Many Indians go to Australia for advanced degrees. This led to a large number of crimes, especially robberies, against these students in 2009.

The situation is complicated because overall, Indian students were subjected to less crime than the average Australian. But they experience more robbery and more crime in general in particular areas.

The Anatomy of Hate Crimes

Hate crimes are sometimes perceived as being random and sudden. However, they are usually premeditated crimes (see below). Hate crime incidents can include:

  • Property damage

  • Offensive graffiti

  • Bullying

  • Harassment

  • Verbal abuse and insults

  • Hate mail and social media abuse

  • Physical assault.

A hate crime law is a law intended to deter such violence. Hate crime laws are distinct from laws against hate speech. Hate crime laws enhance the penalties associated with criminal conduct, while hate speech laws criminalize a category of speech.

Who Commits Hate Crimes?

Perpetrators of hate crimes are often not very different from anyone else. According to a study conducted at the University of California, Los Angeles, which profiled 550 hate crime convicts, they do not fit the profile of psychopaths or sociopaths.

The study found that hate crime offenders are extremely prejudiced. That factor, combined with a tendency to be more aggressive or carry out antisocial behaviors, can lead them to commit crimes of hate.

Another common thread among the group was a strong family history of abuse and violence.

Do Hate Crime Laws Deter Criminals?

When prosecutors can prove that a crime is also a hate crime, the perpetrator's sentence can be increased. But does this make it a true deterrent?

Most sociological experts agree that the place to change social attitudes and help people become more tolerant of others is not in the prison system but in the school system, in activist groups, in church, and even at the kitchen table.

Although legal experts still debate whether Matthew Shepard's murder was a hate crime or simply a robbery gone wrong, what we do know is that both of his killers received two consecutive life sentences without a hate crime law on the books.

Hate crime laws may help people feel safer and believe that the legal system and law enforcement authorities are concerned for their safety. However, there is a big difference between feeling safe and being safe.

Indeed, many people think that even if there was a state or federal hate crime law in place, it is highly unlikely it would have prevented the murder, so it is difficult to state with certainty that hate crime laws are an effective deterrent.

A Multi-Solution Approach is the Answer

The best way these countries can move beyond this culture of violence is to work from the bottom up, not the top down, by addressing the issues of violence and hatred on the most basic level: the community. People, therefore, need to address the problem of prejudice and hatred within their own communities, neighborhoods, schools, and organizations.

To really combat hate crime, people need to gather to examine the racial, economic, and psychological reasons that produce these crimes, not just the simplistic rhetoric of the word "hate."

As a result, some well-known community-based groups have emerged, including INCITE! Women of Color Against Violence and FIERCE, a New York City group comprised of young people of color. Hate crime laws are a good start, but we need to continue the work in our homes and communities.

Educating the Public

Local enforcement agencies need to educate the public on ways to combat hate crime. This could include:

Recognizing Hate Crimes — although some hate crimes are obvious, such as a swastika on the side of a building or the burning of a cross, other crimes are more subtle.

Perpetrators are good at concealing hate crimes as common crimes, so people need to know what a hate crime looks like and the warning signs to look out for.

Intervening or Preventing Hate Crimes — the local authorities need to teach people how to prevent hate crimes or deal with crimes that they come upon in progress.

For example, teenagers should learn how to intervene when they see someone bullying a classmate, and adults need to know how to handle racism or homophobia in the workplace. It may start with nothing more than a crude comment, but it can escalate to more serious acts.

If it can be stopped before it gets out of control, hate crime can be significantly reduced.

Reporting Hate Crimes — systems are needed to make it simple to report a suspected hate crime. Once in place, the public should be educated on how to use that system, and encouraged to do so.

The focus here is to make sure everyone feels safe when reporting acts of hatred to local police forces.

Dealing with Objectionable Online Content — people need to have the tools to deal with objectionable or damaging online content aimed at people and organizations based on race, religion or sexual orientation.

For example, most people don't know that they can report unacceptable website content directly to the web hosting company. Sites like Whoishostingthis.com provide a tool they can use to track down the hosting company of any website.

Armed with the proper contact information, they can then get in touch with the host to ask them to remove the content.

Everyone can do their part by picking up the phone and calling the police when they witness a hate crime. But even before that they could:

  • Call friends and coworkers to talk about the problem.

  • Hold a neighborhood meeting to increase awareness.

  • Create or sign a petition for reform of local and federal laws.

  • Print out informational brochures.

  • Share their creative talents in other ways.

Standing Up to Hate Crimes

Here are some examples of people in America who stood up against acts of hatred:

Sixth-grade students in Morgantown, West Virginia painted over graffiti sprayed over the outside wall of their local convenience store. Their teacher used the graffiti as an example to teach students about the effects of hatred and violence.

After the students viewed a video, "Not in Our Town," depicting how the people of Billings, Montana, fought hate, they decided that leaving the graffiti on the convenience store wall would contribute to more insensitivity in the community.

The actions of these students made them powerful role models in Morgantown, and they received a great deal of press coverage, as well as the congratulations of the Attorney General of West Virginia.

In 2002, Joseph Rodriguez from Sacramento, California, started a campaign to stop the selling of neo-Nazi clothing at Target stores in his community, which initiated a change nationwide.

Nazi Swastika
"Trouble, plain and simple" by Nickolas Nikolic © 2011 via Flickr. Licensed under CC BY 2.0.

He visited the Target store in Sacramento and discovered a line of clothing with the numerical symbols "88." The letter "H" is the eighth letter of the alphabet, and the numerals, "88," are the white supremacy power code for "Heil Hitler."

The company shipped the line to 1,100 Target stores all over America. After several attempts to get Target to halt the "88" clothing sales, Rodriguez contacted the Southern Poverty Law Center.

Target finally stopped selling the items and apologized for any uneasiness or discomfort caused by the "88" clothing line, saying they do not and will not tolerate discrimination in any form.

Groups, Associations, and NGOs that Can Assist

Many community groups and national organizations are addressing the issues around hate crimes. Here are some of the larger groups that are working for change:

American Civil Liberties Union: Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Project

The ACLU's LGBT Project fights against discrimination while passing public opinion on LGBT rights through the court system, the legislature, and public education involving these five areas of concern: relationships, parenting, discrimination, schools, and young people. Visitors to their site can become more involved through the "Get Busy, Get Equal" initiative, which provides tools to attain LGBT equality.

Anti-Violence Project

This organization is based in New York City, and it offers advocacy and counseling, as well as a bilingual hotline for victims of violence. Its goal is to end hate violence and sexual assault, especially toward the LGBT and HIV-affected communities. You can help by donating or volunteering to help in the Anti-Violence Project.

CARF

The Campaign Against Racism and Fascism is not aligned with any political party or tendency. It is run by a collection of individuals with backgrounds from all walks of life who share a commitment to fighting racism and hate crimes.

STOP HATE UK

The leading national organization in the UK that is working to challenge all forms of hate crime and discrimination through training, education, and consultancy.

Human Rights Campaign: Hate Crimes

The goal of this advocacy organization is to achieve equal rights for LGBT people. Its website provides a variety of resources that relate to fighting hate crime, including legislative initiative reports and the latest news stories. It also has an FAQ page that covers hate crimes.

Human Rights First

Based in New York and Washington, DC, this non-partisan international human rights organization protects people who are in turmoil, such as victims of discrimination, refugees fleeing persecution, victims of crimes against humanity, and those who have suffered other human rights violations.

They also help people whose rights have been eroded in the name of national security, and human rights advocates who are targeted for defending the rights of others. Their Fighting Discrimination Program aims to fight hate crimes by encouraging the prompt and fair response from North American, European, and Eurasian governments in all cases of racist, xenophobic, anti-Semitic, anti-Muslim, homophobic, and other forms of bias-motivated acts of violence.

Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD)

This organization promotes fair and accurate representation of people and events in the media as a means of eliminating homophobia and discrimination due to gender identity and sexual orientation. GLAAD's website has a 'Calls to Action' page to encourage people to report instances of media defamation and to get more involved.

Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN)

The Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network monitors the climate in various schools for LGBT youth and offers resources for anti-bias education. The website has tools and tips for young people and educators to help schools to be safe places for every student, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity.

Matthew Shepard Foundation

Dennis and Judy Shepard founded this organization in memory of their 21-year old son. The Foundation works within three primary areas: omitting hate, helping youth organizations create environments where young people feel safe to be themselves, and working for the equality of all LGBT Americans.

National Gay and Lesbian Task Force

This gay rights advocacy organization watches hate crime statistics. They have constructed a state-by-state status report regarding anti-hate crimes legislation where visitors can learn about specific issues and actions in their state.

Premeditated Hate Crime

Many of us consider that hate crimes are often a spontaneous reaction to a particular situation or confrontation but there is plenty of evidence available to counteract this theory and support the idea that in fact, many hate crimes that are committed, are premeditated.

An individual or a group of people will seemingly tend to set out a plan of action and the participants then execute it with care and precision.

For the victim of a hate crime, this action is often wholly unexpected and often involves varying levels of violence together with offensive dialogue.

Damage to the victim's property, offensive graffiti, hate mail, and physical assault are some of the more common incidents that are associated with hate crime.

Is It Possible to Show Undeniable Intent?

If a group of young men vandalizes an empty store, this does not mean they did so because the owner was homosexual; they may simply have seen the opportunity presented by an abandoned building.

The prosecution must provide proof that the men targeted the building because of the victim's race, color, religion, or for some other reason to demonstrate it was a hate crime.

The defendant's use of racial or ethnic slurs during the commission of the crime, or the defendant's admission that they were motivated by bias in order to carry out the offense, can help to prove that it was a hate crime.

In practice, prosecutors tend to seek hate crime convictions only in cases where there is strong evidence of bias on the part of the defendant.

For instance, in the vandalism example above, the defendant's spray-painted slogans of hatred relating to the shopkeeper's sexual orientation would be powerful evidence that these feelings motivated the suspect to commit the crime.

Using Online Resources and Tools

If you come across any content that you consider to be unacceptable or offensive, you should either attempt to contact the website owner directly to report the problem, or if it is a personal attack on you, it may also require you to contact the police.

You can find out who owns a website and the webmaster details by visiting Whoishostingthis.com.

It may be that the material you are viewing is extremely distasteful in your opinion but is actually considered to be legal.

It is still extremely worthwhile to take the time to report any objectionable material that you find on the internet, as it is an effective way of helping to reduce hate crime in general.

It is not just words that can be considered harmful and likely to incite unnecessary hatred. Any picture, video or music that you find which contains offensive material should also be reported, as it may be all that is needed in order to get the material removed.

Identify who owns a particular website is not always a straightforward task, especially if they have set up the site with a degree of third-party anonymity.

If you are not successful in your attempts to contact the owner of the site or get a response, you may wish to try and contact the ISP or hosting company, to check what their content policy is and make them aware of a potential breach.

There are a number of resources available to assist anyone who wants to do what they can to combat hate crime and the effect that it can have on people:

Hate Crime in the US

Hate crime laws vary from state to state. However, state hate crime laws have a tendency to impose tougher penalties on criminals who target their victims because of race, religion, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability.

For example, if a criminal assaults a person because that person is homosexual, that crime would most likely be a hate crime. Typically, state hate crime statutes serve as penalty enhancement statutes.

This means that they increase the penalty for an offense if the victim or target is intentionally selected for violence because of his or her personal characteristics.

Each state has valuable tools at its disposal to fight bias crimes and civil rights violations. States derive their civil rights enforcement powers from case laws, as well as civil, hate crimes, and criminal statutes.

Many state hate crime laws impose enhanced criminal penalties for bias-related incidents.

The Law of the Land

Since 1968, the US federal law has covered a limited class of hate crimes, including:

  • Crimes committed on the basis of race, religion, or national origin.

  • Crimes against victims engaged in a federally protected activity, such as voting, attending school, or other federally-protected liberties.

This important civil rights law does not cover crimes motivated by bias against a person's sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, or disability, or those without some connection to a federally protected activity. That is why the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr Hate Crimes Prevention Act was necessary.

Advocates for the law urged lawmakers to understand how all violent crimes should be prosecuted swiftly and justly, regardless of motivation.

Record Keeping the FBI Way

The FBI is the only investigative force for criminal violations of federal civil rights statutes in America. Hate crime is the number one priority in their civil rights program, which they continue to improve and update. In 2012, the FBI opened 200 hate crime investigations alone.

In 2014, the FBI made changes to the collecting process for their UCR program, which provides accurate figures of the hate crime problem in the United States.

The changes enable law enforcement to provide highly specific information when submitting data relating to hate crimes. Agencies can now submit reports on crimes committed by or against juveniles, as well as those motivated by gender identity bias. The race and ethnicity categories have also been expanded.

Hate Crime and Punishment

Hate crimes receive stiffer penalties because although offenders often target just one person, that person represents a bias against an entire group based on their ethnicity, gender, sexual preference, religion, or other characteristics.

There are many state and federal laws that prohibit hate crimes. However, proving that bias exists is extremely difficult.

  • Laws protecting an institutional target — These are laws that prohibit institutional vandalism, such as damaging or defacing a church, temple, synagogue, or mosque.

  • Laws to protect people based on their membership of a specified group — These types of laws make it a crime to threaten or use violence against a person or persons because of their membership of a protected class.

  • Laws that add additional penalties when the crime has been prosecuted as an assault or under another general criminal law — In such cases, the defendant receives sentencing enhancements, which impose increased (aggravated) penalties because the defendant has committed the crime due to bias against the victim.

Not every crime committed against a racial minority or an LGBT person is a hate crime. The prosecutor must convince the judge or jury that the defendant who committed the underlying criminal act was motivated by bias.

It's a challenge to prove that the defendant acted with hate crime intent unless the defendant confesses to police or others that they committed the crime because of bias.

Proving the Case of Bias

Other than the defendant's own statements, evidence of bias can include:

Membership in a group that encourages hatred for specific groups, like a black separatist group or an online Facebook group that opposes homosexuality. Other indications of group bias include:

  • Possession of symbolism or literature with a connection to bias, such as anti-semitic texts or anti-gay pamphlets.

  • Artwork, writings, graffiti, or tattoos of the defendant.

  • Use of biased slurs or graffiti during or at the scene of the crime.

  • The date of the incident if it coincides with a significant holiday or anniversary associated with the perceived bias.

  • Identical hate crimes that the defendant has committed.

The George Zimmerman / Treyvon Martin Case

The George Zimmerman-Treyvon Martin case demonstrates how difficult it can be to prove intent. On February 26, 2012, George Zimmerman, a neighborhood watch captain in Sanford, Florida, called 911 to report what he described as "a suspicious person" in his neighborhood.

The police instructed him to stay in his SUV and not to approach the person. However, Zimmerman ignored their directions and started to follow Treyvon Martin around the housing complex.

Neighbors reported hearing gunfire a few moments later. When the police arrived, Zimmerman informed them that he shot Martin, insisting that he did so in self-defense.

In the police report, Officer Timothy Smith writes that Zimmerman was bleeding from the back of his head, as well as his nose.

In this case, proving intent is the biggest hurdle in order to prosecute this as a hate crime. The question is whether Zimmerman followed Martin because of his race, or because he was an intruder in the neighborhood.

The prosecutors need to establish beyond a reasonable doubt exactly what Zimmerman was thinking at the very moment he pulled the trigger. What complicates the civil rights case even further is that the victim cannot speak for himself or provide further proof.

Prosecuting Hate Crimes

A hate crime is an add-on to an existing criminal act, such as vandalism or arson. The authorities sometimes don't report common crimes like assault, property damage, and even more grave offenses as hate crimes.

In such cases, the prosecution must simply prove that the accused committed a crime without proving that the defendant had the intent or a motive to commit a hate crime.

However, if a hate crime is proven, the judge will place additional penalties on the resulting sentence.

The recent changes in the Hate Crimes Prevention Act have made a big difference by including the element of intent in hate crime laws. Courts are able to issue higher penalties for the perpetrator, which may help deter future acts of hatred.

In addition, updates to the Federal Hate Crime Statistics Act (HCSA) may encourage law enforcement agencies to report more hate crimes, which may help make the data more accurate.

A change in the federal laws on hate crime may also demonstrate to American citizens just how serious the problem really is through making funds available to run public events to educate people on hate crimes.

Once the police, local governments, and the community band together, it is hoped that the problem will become more manageable and that the number of hate crimes will fall.

The State of Hate Crime in the US

Although we have come a long way in recent years, America has much work to do to reduce hate crimes.

Law officials must report honestly and diligently, and they must work hard to determine if a crime is also an act of hate.

Legislation also needs to be enacted to make sure no one is attacked just because of their personal beliefs, religion, affiliation, or nationality.

Parents, teachers, and religious leaders all need to work together to stop prejudice and intolerance before it begins.

We need to discuss the issue and learn to put a stop to hate crimes as a nation. We all need to speak out against hate crime, bigotry, and prejudice. Working together in this way is the only way to reduce the number of hate crimes.

Resources

Hate Crime in the UK

Hate crime is as big an issue as it is in the United States. And the two countries have evolved regarding it in similar ways and on similar time frames.

March Against Hate in Dublin
"Dublin March 15," by Sinn Féin © 2013 via Flickr. Licensed under CC BY 2.0.

Hate Crime in Numbers

The percentage of crimes that have hate as a prominent factor is very similar to that in the US.

The number of hate crime victims reported in 2012 (including individuals, businesses, institutions, and society as a whole) was 7,164, a decrease of 549 compared to 2011. More statistics from the UCR program include:

  • 75.6 percent of the victims of crimes against property suffered acts of destruction, damage, and/or vandalism.

  • Out of a total of 5,331 known offenders, 54.6 percent were white and 23.3 percent were black.

  • Law enforcement authorities reported 10 murders and 15 rapes as hate crimes.

Data Collection: Recording and Legislating Hate Crimes

There have been efforts and changes the law in recent years to create legal definitions of what constitutes a hate crime. A good example of this is the introduction of section 146 of The Criminal Justice Act for England and Wales in 2003.

This law, which came into effect in 2005, relates to homophobic hate crime and homophobic hate incidents. It states that a court must treat hostility based on sexual orientation as an aggravating factor when contemplating the seriousness of an offense. This is determined by whether one of the following is true:

  • At the time of committing the offense, or immediately before or after doing so, the offender demonstrated towards the victim of the offense hostility based on sexual orientation (or presumed sexual orientation) of the victim.
  • That the offense is motivated (wholly or partly) by hostility towards persons who are of a particular sexual orientation.

If an offense has been motivated by the offender's hostility or prejudice towards the victim based on their actual or perceived sexual orientation, then the judge is required to treat this as an aggravating factor and state in open court any additional elements of the sentence that they are giving specifically for this aggravation.

Scotland introduced the Offences Aggravated by Prejudice (Scotland Bill) in 2009, This brings them in line with the hate crime legislation already in existence in England and Wales, and it includes homophobic and transphobic hate crimes.

The Association of Chief Police Officers works on the basis that there is a distinction between a hate incident and a hate crime.

A hate incident is defined as:

  • Any non-crime incident which is perceived by the victim or any other person as being motivated by hostility or prejudice.

A hate crime is defined as:

  • Any hate incident, which constitutes a criminal offense, perceived by the victim or any other person, as being motivated by prejudice or hate based on a person's sexual orientation.

There is currently a disparity in the law regarding different types of hate crimes. Perpetrators of racially and religiously motivated hate crimes can be charged with specific offenses such as racially or religiously aggravated harassment or assault. However, perpetrators of homophobic hate crimes are charged with an existing offense such as assault, and the homophobic motivation is taken into account during the sentencing process.

Data on hate crime statistics is collected via the Crime Survey for England and Wales and police recorded crimes figures that are supplied to the Office for National Statistics.

The State of Hate Crime in the UK

Although we have come a long way in recent years, the UK has much work to do to reduce hate crimes. Law officials must report honestly and diligently, and they must work hard to determine if a crime is just a robbery or truly an act of hate.

Parents, teachers, and religious leaders all need to work together to stop prejudice and intolerance before it begins.

We need to discuss the issue and learn to put a stop to hate crimes as a nation. We all need to speak out against hate crime, bigotry, and prejudice. Working together in this way is the only way to reduce the number of hate crimes.

Resources

Hate Crime in Canada

There has been a noticeable change in the diversity of Canada's population in recent years and despite some progress being made with the help of social movements, to reduce the potential for hate crime, the issue still remains a subject of concern that needs addressing in today's society.

There is some positive news to digest when you look at the crime statistics, which point to a reduction in violent hate crimes against specific groups, but hate crimes motivated by sexual orientation and racially-motivated hate crimes still give plenty of cause for concern.

Rally against racism in Vancouver, B.C. Emory Barnes, Speaker of the Legislative Assembly and Betty Baxter, NDP candidate, in foreground right.
"Rally against racism in Vancouver, B.C. Emory Barnes, Speaker of the Legislative Assembly and Betty Baxter, NDP candidate, in foreground right" by Alan Dutton, CAERS © date unknow via Wikipedia. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0.

The Criminal Code

The Criminal Code, which is also known as the Code Criminel, is a law that is designed to tackle and deal with most criminal offenses and incidents that are likely to occur in Canada.

The Criminal Code of Canada states that a hate crime is committed when someone sets out to intimidate, harm or terrify another person or group of people to which the person belongs.

The victims are seen as being targeted by virtue of who they are rather than anything that they have done.

Sections 318 and 319 of the Criminal Code state that it is a crime to incite hatred with section 318 stating that it is a criminal act to "advocate or promote genocide" — to call for, support, encourage or argue for the killing of members of a group based on colour, race, religion, ethnic origin or sexual orientation"

Canadian Human Rights

The Canadian Human Rights Act also deals with the subject of hate crime under section 13 of the act, which states that it is a discretionary practice to send hate messages via telecommunications equipment, including the internet.

Section 13 also deals in greater detail with hate messages and covers all aspects of communicating methods of hatred including written and spoken messages that are perceived to be unfairly targeting a person or group of people due to their ethnic background, sexual orientation or any other part of our society.

Hate Crime in Numbers

Statistics Canada has collated the latest set of crime figures which cover 2012 and there were a total of 1,414 police reported hate-motivated crime incidents during this twelve month period.

Almost 50% of these reported crimes were ethnically or racially motivated hatred, with 704 reported incidents. There were 419 incidents religiously related. There were 185 reported incidents that were deemed to have been motivated by hatred of sexual orientation.

These bare figures only tell part of the story because, although hate crimes related to sexual orientation were the smallest in number, they were actually the area which witnessed the greatest number of violent offenses.

Some 67% of the reported 185 hate crimes committed due to the sexual orientation of the victim, resulted in violence, which is in stark contrast to hate crimes against religion or race, which were mainly deemed as mischief offenses.

This disparity does not make one type of incident less troubling than the other, but it does provide an insight into the types and forms of hate crimes being perpetrated in Canada.

The figures also tell us that 80% of sexual-orientation hate crime victims were males aged under 25 years and overall, you may be surprised to learn that 72% of hate crime victims were males with 40% of them being aged under 25.

There was a 6% increase in reported hate crimes from the previous year and demographic differences do influence where hate crimes are likely to occur.

There was an increase in reported hate crimes in Ontario, Alberta, and Quebec but British Columbia had 11 fewer reported incidents in 2012.

Incidents in Toronto, Montreal, and Vancouver made up 35% of all the reported hate crimes and Hamilton, Thunder Bay, and Peterborough were the three areas with the highest level of reported hate crime.

One thing that is particularly striking about these statistics in general, is the total number of reported incidents of hate crime in the country during 2012.

This number must surely indicate that there are potentially many incidents of hate crime at varying degrees of severity occurring, that are not brought to the attention of the police.

A 2009 general social survey on victimization (GSS) which looks at the safety of Canadians would also seem to affirm that opinion with two-thirds of respondents who said they had been victims of a hate crime, stating that they did not report the incident to the police authorities.

The State of Hate Crime in Canada

There is still a lot of work that needs to be done before anyone can say with any degree of confidence that incidences of hate crime in Canada are on the way to being eradicated or even successfully policed.

This ultimate goal can be achieved if parents, teachers, religious leaders, government bodies, and every responsible community-minded citizen, works in coalition and is brave enough to stand up and speak out against hate crime and the effect that it can have on people's lives.

Resources

There are a number of resources available to assist anyone who wants to do what they can to combat hate crime and the effect that it can have on people:

Hate Crime in Australia

There are quite rightly, federal laws in Australia that provide legal protection and rights for victims to deal with any incidents of hate crime in whatever form it comes in.

The Racial Discrimination Act 1975 forbids hate speech on numerous grounds and this federal law makes it unlawful to offend, insult, humiliate or intimidate any other person or group of people because of their colour, ethnicity or for any other reasons such as a disability or a particular sexual orientation.

Anyone who feels aggrieved by another person's deeds or actions can seek to lodge a complaint with the Australian Human Rights Commission.

There is even an act that was passed a century ago which is still relevant today when it comes to hate crime.

Section 85ZE of the Crimes Act 1914 makes it an offense to knowingly or recklessly use a carriage service in a manner which a reasonable adult would find offensive.

The Australian government recently introduced an amendment to this law which specifically deals with offensive content found via internet content, and all its various forms such as email, which are included within the legislation.

There have been some prosecutions in relation to online content that have been initiated under section 85ZE, but these have primarily been on the basis of guilty pleas, so it still remains to be seen how successful a prosecution might be, when fully tested in a court of law on a regular basis.

State Differences

All of the Australian jurisdictions provide a legal framework for seeking redress when a person is victimized on account of their race.

However, this may not as clearly be the case in respect of a situation where a person is victimized due to their color, disability, ethnic origin, religion or sexual orientation.

Tasmania has the Anti-Discrimination Act 1998 to deal with anyone inciting hatred and New South Wales has the Anti-Discrimination Act 1977, which has made it a criminal offense to incite hatred, contempt or severe ridicule towards a person or group on the grounds of race.

Although there is a substantial fine or potential prison sentence for anyone found guilty, it appears that there is yet to be a prosecution under this law.

The state of Victoria introduced its Racial and Religious Tolerance Act in 2001 and the law covers anyone who attempts to use the internet or email to publish or transmit anything that could be considered to be a hate crime.

South Australia has the Racial Vilification Act 1996, but proposals to introduce a new law to cover religious discrimination and vilification were dropped after objections were raised.

The Northern Territory operates under the Anti-Discrimination Act of 1992 which aims to prohibit discrimination and harassment and the Australian Capital Territory has the Discrimination Act 1991, which is very similar to the laws applied in New South Wales.

Hate Crime in Numbers

Whereas crime statistics in some countries are readily available for specific offenses such as hate crime, Australia is not an easy country in which to get a national picture of the extent of offenses taking place.

Each state has a different methodology and classification process, which make it very difficult to compare crime rates in general, although the Australian Bureau of Statistics does provide some comparative breakdowns in general terms.

Hate Crime and the consequences of it and how to deal with incidents from a police enforcement point of view, is still a relatively new phenomenon and therefore the best way to get a clearer picture of the issues facing the country, is to look at specific states in Australia and the issues they are facing.

Gay Hate Crime

Paul Sheehan, a journalist from the Sydney Herald, wrote an article in 2013 which attempted to highlight the fact that a largely unacknowledged crime wave was taking place with respect to Gay Hate Crime and that members of the public had to rely on estimates of the number of offences due to the lack of hard facts and numbers to support or deny the extent of the problem.

There are similar sentiments in Tasmania for example, where the police do not currently gather statistics on hate crime.

It has been suggested that an acceptance of gay marriage in the state would definitely help to diffuse an element of tension that appears to exist, but in the absence of any specific crime figures, it is difficult to know the true extent of the problem.

New Legislation for Australia

Anti-discrimination laws have typically been focused on sexual harassment in the past but legislation is being brought up to date throughout the country in order to reflect the need to protect people from harassment if they are identified within a particular group of individuals in society.

Federal laws are being updated to prohibit other types of harassment other than that of a sexual nature and this means that homophobic or disability-related hate crimes are now included as well as outlawing hatred based on religion, ethnic origin or any other identifiable group that could be victimized.

Australian law has now realised that a whole raft of new legislation was needed in order to combat hate crimes in the country and this new legislation is designed to recognise in a court of law, that a harsher sentence may be justified if the crime committed such as robbery or personal harm, was motivated by a motive that could be described as being a hate crime issue.

The State of Hate Crime in Australia

There is a lot of work that still needs to be done before anyway can say that incidences of hate crime in Australia are on the way to being eradicated or successfully policed.

This ultimate goal can be achieved if parents, teachers, religious leaders, government bodies and every responsible community-minded citizen, works in coalition and is brave enough to stand up and speak out against hate crime and the effect that it can have on people's lives.

Resources

There are a lot of resources that can help you in the fight against hate crime. Here are some of the most important, but these will probably lead you to others.

Summary

With the local news constantly reporting terrible crimes, it is easy to believe that the world is just getting worse and we are all doomed. But the truth is the opposite. There is a common phrase in the news business, "If it bleeds, it leads." So news usually gives you the wrong idea of what is really going on in the world.

The truth is the human race is becoming more accepting and less hateful. But that doesn't mean we can give up the fight. It's because people have fought against hate crime and general crime itself that our society is getting better.

Hate crime is unacceptable. And if you find yourself in a position to do something about it, you should. We have provided lots of resources to help you make a positive contribution to your community. It's up to you and all of us.