The law responds to hate crime in four ways by:
- providing for additional “aggravated” offences with longer sentences in the Crime and Disorder Act 1998 if an offender demonstrated hostility or was motivated by hostility based on race or religion.
- prohibiting conduct that is likely to stir up hatred on grounds of race, or intended to do so on grounds of religion or sexual orientation in the Public Order Act 1986.
- providing for enhanced sentencing under sections 145 and 146 of the Criminal Justice Act 2003 if hostility is motivated by any of the five protected characteristics: disability, transgender status, race, religion or sexual orientation; and
- providing Sentencing guidelines. Section 125(1) of the Coroners and Justice Act 2009 requires that a sentencing judge must follow any sentencing guideline which is relevant to their case. This includes, for example, consideration of whether the offence was motivated by racial or religious hostility, or if it was motivated by or demonstrated hostility towards the victim based on one or more of several of the victim’s characteristics: age, sex, gender identity (or presumed gender identity), disability (or presumed disability) or sexual orientation.
The Government have invited the Law Commission to review the law relating to hate crime and to make recommendations to the Government for its reform. The review began in March 2019.
Specifically, the Law Commission have been asked to consider the current range of offences and aggravating factors in sentencing, and to make recommendations on the most appropriate models to ensure that the criminal law provides consistent and effective protection from conduct motivated by hatred towards protected groups or characteristics. The review will also take account of the existing range of protected characteristics, identifying any gaps in the scope of protection currently offered under the law and making recommendations to promote a consistent approach.
The Law Commission plan to issue a consultation on this matter in early 2020. Further information on the review can be found on the Law Commission webpage at: https://www.lawcom.gov.uk/project/hate-crime/