The Law Commission gives suggestions on reform of hate crime laws

By Sia Xinyu


https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/hate-crimes-women-misogyny-sex-gender-law-commission-review-b535161.html


The recent murders of Sarah Everard and Sabina Nessa sent shockwaves throughout the UK. The two women had their lives brutally taken away from them for simply going about their daily lives, and the injustice of their stories sparked mass criticism on the lack of laws in place to protect women. This worrying trend, coupled with the rise in hate crimes due to our increasingly polarised world, spurred the Law Commission to start a consultation paper [1] to help shape their final recommendations on the state of hate crime laws in the UK.


Key points of Law Commission’s proposed reforms


1. Equal recognition of five protected characteristics


Currently, the law recognises the five protected characteristics of race, religion, sexual orientation, disability, and transgender status. However, the Law Commission found that the law does not accord all five characteristics with an equal status, which makes it difficult for law enforcement to match each offence with appropriate sentencing. [2] The unequal treatment of characteristics also carries negative messages to those who have characteristics deemed to be less important, such as disabled and LGBT+ victims. [3] As such, the Law Commission proposes for standardisation across all hate crime laws to better protect vulnerable victims.


2. Recognising sex or gender in hate crime laws


Despite the rising trend of misogyny-based hate crimes, the Law Commission has countered the idea of adding “sex or gender” to the list of protected characteristics. [4] They reasoned this measure to be ineffective and potentially even counterproductive, as it would complicate prosecution processes and create an unhelpful hierarchy of victims. [5]


Instead, the Law Commission proposes expanding the offence of stirring up hatred to include inciting hostility on the grounds of sex or gender, [6] as well as encouraging the government to look into creating a new offence for public sexual harassment. [7] They believe that these steps will better tackle the root problem of extremist misogynistic ideologies.


Response from public


While the Law Commission’s suggestions point towards a step in the right direction, activist groups for women’s rights have criticised the lack of daring reforms they felt were necessary for real change. The Fawcett Society and Citizens UK put out a statement voicing the opinion that the review was “too narrow” and did not “recognise the value of including misogyny to enable recording of incidents which are currently invisible”. [8] They hoped that the Law Commission’s proposal for a review of the law on public sexual harassment will be achieved quickly, before it is too late.





References:

[1] Law Commission, Hate crime laws: A consultation paper (Law Com Consultation Paper 250, 2020)

[2] Law Commission, Hate Crime Laws: Final Report (Law Com No 402, 2021) paras 9.15-9.20

[3] Ibid (no 2), paras 4.284-4.287

[4] Ibid (no 2), paras 5.378-5.380

[5] Ibid (no 2), paras 5.120-5.123

[6] Ibid (no 2), paras 10.170-10.215

[7] Ibid (no 2), paras 5.391-5.396

[8] The Fawcett Society, ‘Joint Statement to Law Commission Review of Hate Crime’ (7 Dec 2021) <https://www.fawcettsociety.org.uk/news/joint-response-to-law-commission-review-of-hate-crime>