That was the message from Justice Minister Naomi Long when she opened an Online Hate Crime Event at Belfast City Hall.
Naomi Long said: “Whether offline or online, targeting a person because of who they are or what they believe – be it their race, religion, political belief, sexuality, gender identity or disability – is wrong.
“When someone has been verbally or physically assaulted in the street, we encourage victims to report it – and this is no different when it comes to online abuse. Just because someone hides behind the perceived anonymity of a keyboard, doesn’t mean they are any less culpable or should not be called to account for their actions.
“A growing awareness of the mental and physical toll online abuse can have on victims means there is now more of a tendency to ‘call it out’ but it is really important that these crimes – because that’s what they are – are reported so victims can get the support they need and perpetrators can be caught.”
The NI-wide Online Hate Crime Event was organised by the Belfast Policing and Community Safety Partnership and PSNI.
The Minister added: “Policing and Community Safety Partnerships are playing an important role in working with communities at a local level in terms of prevention and early intervention initiatives.
“When a hate incident or hate crime does take place we must also support victims with care and sensitivity to their needs. My department, along with the PSNI, funds the Hate Crime Advocacy Service which assists third party reporting of incidents and supports victims through the criminal justice system process.
“We also work with the PSNI, Housing Executive and Housing Associations to provide the Hate Incident Practical Action Scheme which is aimed at providing personal and home protection measures for victims of hate incidents.”
“I welcome the ongoing work by the Westminster Government in their Online Harms White Paper. Although telecommunications is a reserved matter, my officials have been liaising with the Home Office and Department for Culture, Media and Sport to ensure the interests of Northern Ireland are fully met in the process.”
Naomi Long added: “Whether online or offline, in the words of the Belfast PCSP’s Campaign, let’s make sure that there is ‘No Place for Hate’.”
The event featured a number of speakers including Deputy Chief Constable Mark Hamilton and Judge Desmond Marrinan, who last year was appointed by the Department of Justice to carry out an independent Review of Hate Crime Legislation in Northern Ireland.
Notes to editors:
- In June last year the Department of Justice appointed Judge Desmond Marrinan to carry out an independent Review of Hate Crime Legislation.
- He has been meeting with stakeholders to consider current hate crime legislation, including standalone offences, enhanced sentences, potential additional categories of hate crime and restorative justice.
- The Review has been extended to include consideration of online hate crime without duplicating a White Paper on this by the UK Government.
- As part of his review Judge Marrinan has published a consultation document and is currently seeking the views of the public on a range of hate crime issues. He is hosting a number of public outreach events throughout Northern Ireland. There are two outreach events still to take place: 4 March – the Guildhall, Derry/Londonderry; and 12 March – Civic Centre Craigavon.
- Details of the consultation can be found at www.hatecrimereviewni.org.uk
- Judge Marrinan is due to provide his final report to the Department of Justice in summer 2020.
- All media enquiries should be directed to the Department of Justice Press Office 028 9052 6444. Out of office hours, please contact the duty press officer on 028 9037 8110.
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