Make racist incidents a separate offence, urges garda

A senior garda has said a review of the law may be required to make it easier to prosecute crimes involving racist abuse.

Sgt Trevor Laffan, based in Cork’s Anglesea St station, said some offences which involve elements of racism were easier to prosecute as public order offences, rather than as racist offences.

He was speaking after he helped to launch a report last week by immigrant support organisation Nasc on racism and discrimination in Cork. The report shows more than 80% of people surveyed who said they had experienced racist abuse had not reported to it to the gardaí because they believed no action would be taken.

In a handful of cases received by Nasc since summer 2011, some people complained of discrimination by gardaí, primarily in instances where individuals were stopped in the street and asked for identification.

His comments also come as the GAA announced an investigation into allegations that a Crossmaglen Rangers player was subjected to racist abuse at yesterday's Ulster Club final.

Sgt Laffan said that in his experience there was no racist or discriminatory element to these requests by gardaí, but accepted there was under-reporting of racism in Cork.

“I have no reason to believe that Cork city is different to any other city in Europe,” he said regarding racist incidents and the reporting of them. “It is probably at the lower end of the scale.”

He said he was surprised that more people did not feel secure in coming forward with complaints, stating in some cases they may have negative associations with policing in their native country and also a fear of the legal process.

He said the possibility of making it easier to prosecute allegations of racist abuse may help foster confidence in the justice system.

“A separate offence for a racist incident would simplify things. It is worth looking at,” he said.

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