‘No place in Antrim and Newtownabbey for hate crime’ - council submission

Antrim and Newtownabbey Borough Council has come to a belated decision to make a submission to the Department for Justice’s Hate Crime Review despite publication of its findings less that 24 hours later.

The council has asked the chief executive to write to the review body asking  the panel to recognise gender as a category of hate crime and to recognise crimes targeted at women as hate crimes based on misogyny.

Currently, there is no such thing in law as a hate crime in Northern Ireland.

Antrim and Newtownabbey has seen a rise in hate crimes and incidents last year with 109 reported compared to 92 in 2018.

Judge Desmond Marrinan

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In his findings published on Tuesday, Crown Court Judge Desmond Marrinan, who headed the review, said: “I am satisfied that gender should be covered as a protected characteristic (rather than misogyny).”

He also stated: “There was no clear consensus from the consultation responses on the question of whether gender and gender identity should be included as protected characteristics in Northern Ireland hate crime legislation. This is an important finding and underlines the challenges of legislating in this area.

“Organisations were split in their views, with 55% ‘for’ and 45% ‘against’ the inclusion of gender and gender identity.  In contrast, 92% of individuals were opposed to the inclusion of gender and gender identity.”

The review panel had responses from 189 individuals and 58 organisations.

The council also unanimously agreed to “recognise the impact of all gender discrimination and those affected by it”.

“We recognise that misogyny plays a role in attitudes towards a variety of crimes including harassment, assault, sexual assault and hate crimes and should be recognised as a factor when determining these crimes.

“We also recognise that societal misogyny plays a part in the career choices and personal lives of women and girls in this country.”

The council agreed to support the ‘Raise Your Voice Project’, which tackles sexual harassment and sexual violence across Northern Ireland by placing posters in Council buildings so that those affected can avail of those services.

The motion asking the Hate Crime Review panel to recognise gender as a category of hate crime was proposed by Dunsilly Alliance Councillor Glenn Finlay at a meeting of the borough council on Monday night.

He said: “I am very aware of misogyny in society. I am standing up for the rights of wives, daughters and sisters.”

Glengormley DUP Cllr Alison Bennington commented that hate crime is “in part motivated by negative and violent attitudes towards women but also men”.

“The council should support gender discrimination as a category within hate crime legislation.

“By displaying posters in all council properties raises awareness. We must also look at how to change attitudes to ensure the contribution of women and men is valued.”

Sinn Fein Cllr Annemarie Logue, an Airport representative, said she believes misogyny should be treated as a hate crime. I welcome the independent review which is to be published tomorrow. If we have missed it, I hope we have cross-party support.”

Deputy Mayor SDLP Cllr Noreen McClelland stated: “I believe it is the responsibility of everyone in this chamber to recognise and tackle discrimination against women.

“It is so woven into the fabric of our society, very often we do not see it. Not any single person in this chamber has anything to be afraid of by this council taking on the fight against gender discrimination.”

Ballyclare Ulster Unionist Cllr Norrie Ramsay added: “All forms of abuse against women are simply wrong.”

The public consultation closed at the end of April. The findings have now been presented to Justice Minister Naomi Long for consideration.

The completion of a review in to hate crime legislation is an important first step in addressing the issue, the Justice Minister has said.

“Hate crime in any form is unacceptable and addressing it is one of my priorities. 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,” she stated.

A spokesperson for Antrim and Newtownabbey Borough Council said:  “Members had recently received representations from advocacy groups and felt it important to place their views on hate crimes against women on the record.

“The Review is only one stage of this process as the Justice Minister will now move to consider its recommendations.

“The cross-party and unanimous support from members sent out a strong message that this activity has no place in our borough and our society.”

Michelle Weir, Local Democracy Reporter

Click here to read: Police treating Ballyclare incident as a ‘racially motivated hate crime’

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