28 January 2013
How should society define ‘hate crime’? And how should lawmakers respond to it?
Those are two of the key issues to be discussed at a major European conference organised by academics from the University of Central Lancashire (UCLan) to be held in Brussels tomorrow, 29 January.
“When Law and Hate Collide: Perspectives on Hate Crime” is a project led by Professor Michael Salter of the Lancashire Law School at UCLan, working with academics from the University of Gothenburg and Goethe University, Frankfurt.
‘Hate crimes’ are crimes where a perpetrator targets a victim because of their membership of a certain social group – whether that is based on race, religion, sexual orientation, disability or ethnicity. Hate crimes generally refer to physical assault, harassment or damage to property – and tend to be viewed differently by law-makers as they are motivated by prejudice or bias.
“Hate crime is a growing concern in Europe”
But there is not currently a single definition of ‘hate crime’ and little consistency with how hate crimes are dealt with throughout Europe.
Countries often report a rise in hate crimes around specific events – such as Gay Pride parades or visible immigration during a time of economic crisis. A recent report in the UK also identified a rise in disability hate crime. But the lack of consistency across countries in defining hate crime means that it is difficult to legislate for.
The project aims to tackle this and provide the European Parliament and the Commission with a working definition of Hate Crime and then provide policy guidelines to ensure all Member States of the Union can respond to it within their legal framework.
“This conference will bring together some of the leading thinkers on hate crime to debate these issues and map out the way forward for legislators across Europe”
The conference – the third in a series of hate crime symposia – will present new research findings from the project. These include results from focus group research with NGOs in Germany, philosophical analysis by the team from the University of Gottenberg and empirical analysis of interviews with participants in England's criminal justice system who deal with different aspects of hate crime.
Professor Michael Salter said: “Hate crime is a growing concern in Europe. But at present, society has not worked out how to define it, and therefore how to respond to it.
“This conference will bring together some of the leading thinkers on hate crime to debate these issues and map out the way forward for legislators across Europe.”