A black man, a gay man and a Jew walk into a bar... if the three of them get punched in the face, why does the law treat these crimes differently to a situation where the victim is an average white man? Why do we need "hate crimes" instead of one law for all of us?
Hate crimes are on the rise. Is it Brexit, immigration…or just a hyped-up new label for old problems.
Hi, I’m Leon Hawthorne. The number of hate crimes in Britain is at an all time high.
Well, this sounds shocking but new offences have been created specifically to re-badge old crimes with new “hate” names; and the police and Crown Prosecution Service have been politically incentivised to increase the number of prosecutions.
Hate crimes are officially defined as:
“Any criminal offence which is perceived by the victim or any other person, to be motivated by a hostility or prejudice based on a person’s race… religion… sexual orientation… or disability.”
“Perceived” not proven; not based on any evidence - just what do you think the criminal was thinking at the time?
Last year (2015/16), the number of completed criminal prosecutions in England and Wales for hate crimes rose to 15,442, of which 83% of defendants were convicted.
Most of these, 84% (13,032) were for racial or religiously aggravated crimes. 10% (1,469) were for homophobic or transphobic hate crimes. And 6% (941) were for crimes related to a person’s disability.
Now, all of these offences are clearly grotesque and the perpetrators are vile human beings.
But should the law be applied differently depending on who is the victim?
A black man, a gay man and a Muslim walk into a pub. Minutes later, a white man approaches them and POW, POW, POW, he punches each of them in the face, knocking them to the ground… each victim sustaining a broken nose. The white man says to the black man: ‘I punched you because you were looking at my girlfriend’. He says to the gay man: ‘I punched you because you’re wearing an Arsenal shirt and I support Spurs’. And to the Muslim, he says: ‘I punched you because I hate all Muslims.’ Now this sounds like a joke, but there isn’t a punch line.
According to criminal law firm, Duncan Lewis, it’s likely the man would be charged with grievous bodily harm under Section 20 of the Offences Against the Person Act 1861, for which the maximum sentence is ordinarily five years in prison.
But if the assault is aggravated by racial, religious or homophobic hatred, this can add an extra two years to the sentence.
In my example, only the attack on the Muslim was truly a hate crime, but the law says hate crimes are about perception, not reality. So, the defendant might also face hate charges for attacking the homosexual and the Jew.
Look - if somebody punched me in the face, I don’t care what was his motivation and neither should the law. He should get the same sentence regardless of my skin colour, religion or sexuality.
The law should be simple and universally applied, without fear or favour.
As a journalist and advocate of free speech, I’m particularly concerned with so called hate crimes related to speech and thought.
If somebody wants to hate me because of my race, feel free. If he wants to preach to others to hate me, go ahead. Incitement to hatred is incitement to think bad thoughts. We should be free to think what we like, however odious those thoughts might be.
Draw the line at incitement to commit criminal actions like vandalism or violence.
At the moment, someone could go to prison for seven years for use of words or publishing material intended to stir up racial or religious hatred. But I say: let them speak freely and let others counter their hatred with better arguments.
These laws are tantamount to thought crimes befitting the first Elizabethan era, not the present time.
I say scrap all these ridiculous, politically correct, hate crimes and let’s have one law for all of us that focuses on criminal actions and not on words, thoughts or motives.
I’m Leon Hawthorne. Thanks for watching.