Hate crime laws
Hate crimes are acts of violence or hostility directed at people because of who they are. Hate crime laws in England and Wales have developed in various phases over the past two decades, and the law currently recognises five protected characteristics: race, religion, sexual orientation, disability and transgender status.
But the criminal law does not treat all of those protected characteristics equally. This means that someone who is assaulted based on disability is not afforded the same protection as someone who is assaulted because of their race. Other major concerns include the complexity and lack of clarity in the current laws which can make them hard to understand; and concerns about the particular challenges in prosecuting disability hate crimes.
In 2020, the Law Commission consulted on hate crime and hate speech laws England and Wales: in particular the aggravated offences regime under sections 28 to 32 of the Crime and Disorder Act 1998, the enhanced sentencing regime under sections 145 and 146 of the Criminal Justice Act 2003, the “stirring up” offences under Parts 3 and 3A of the Public Order Act 1986, and the offence of “racialist chanting” contrary to section 3(1) of the Football Offences Act 1991.
The consultation focused on two main questions:
- Who should these laws protect?
- How should these laws work?
The final report was published on 7 December 2021 making a number of recommendations for reform of hate crime laws. These include:
- Levelling up the protection for disability and LGBT+ victims
- Tackling sex and gender abuse
- Protecting freedom of expression
Hate crime | Law Commission↑ Back to top