There has been a “dramatic” increase in hate crime in recent years after changes in recording practices by gardaí, according to an international report.
The research, which examined the situation in five EU countries, found levels of hate crime recorded in 2016 were the highest since similar figures were gathered since 2006.
However, researchers, garda civilian statisticians, and civil groups believe the figures still “under-represents” the real level of hate crime in the country.
The 216-page report Life Cycle of a Hate Crime recommends specific legislation on hate crime in Ireland, concluding that the lack of it was limiting both the investigation and prosecution of such offences.
The report seeks aggravated sentences for hate crimes.
Other recommendations include inclusion of cyber hate offences, regional specialist garda hate crime units, a public awareness campaign, specific guidelines from the DPP, a requirement on judges to consider the hate element of all offences, and training for gardaí, lawyers, and the judiciary.
Recorded figures on hate crimes show there were more than 300 recorded offences in 2016, compared to just over 100 in 2014 and a yearly average of around 160 between 2006-2014.
The report said there had been significant improvements in garda recording of hate crime since 2015, with a specific update to the Garda Pulse computer system introduced that November.
This expanded five relevant categories to record hate crimes to 11.
“The number of crimes as recorded as having a discriminatory motive increased dramatically following the introduction of Pulse 6.8: from 114 in 2014 to 308 in 2016,” said the report, carried out by the Irish Council for Civil Liberties.
Authors Amanda Haynes and Jennifer Schweppe said their findings supported the view that the figure “underrepresents the real figure in Ireland and that both underreporting and underrecording remain a challenge”.
The 2016 figure includes 152 crimes of racism, 38 of ageism, 31 gender-related, 28 homophobia, 25 anti-Traveller, and 13 anti-Muslim. The 308 figure compares to an average of 158 crimes annually between 2006 and 2014, ranging from 114 in 2014 to 233 in 2007.
The report said that the Central Statistics Office advised caution in interpreting the data in 2016, given it was the first full year under the extended Pulse system.
The CSO also referred to its own reviews and those of the Garda Inspectorate, the latter finding that around 16% of crime reported to gardaí was not logged on Pulse.
The report found there were few prosecutions for hate crime in Ireland, in part due to a requirement to prove the perpetrator intended to stir up hatred.
The report recommends the introduction of legislation, incorporating aggravated offences and sentencing provisions specific to hate crime.
It called for reform of the Prohibition of Incitement to Hatred Act 1989, to include cyber hate and protect more groups.
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