The Framework of Criminal Law
Legislation on Bias-motivated Violence: None
|Bias-motivated Violent Crimes as Specific Offenses||Bias as an Express General Aggravating Factor||Bias as an Aggravating Factor in Specific Common Crimes|
Bias Types Covered by Provisions on Aggravating Circumstances: N/A
|Race/National Origin/Ethnicity||Religion||Sexual Orientation||Gender||Disability||Other|
The Criminal Code of Ireland does not contain provisions that expressly enable the racist or other bias motives of the offender to be taken into account by the courts as an aggravating circumstance when sentencing.
On December 10, 2005, the Minister of State at the Department of Justice awarded the School of Law of the University of Limerick with a contract to assist the Ministry of Justice and the National Action Plan Against Racism (NPAR) in assessing the efficiency of national legislation combating racially-motivated crime. The research was commissioned to determine whether legal hate crime offenses or aggravated circumstance provisions should be introduced in Ireland.
On March 21, 2007, the NPAR organized a seminar entitled “Combating Racially-Motivated Violence: Is our legislation adequate?” In connection with the seminar, researchers issued “Combating Racism through the Criminal Law.” In regard to violent criminal acts, the authors considered the introduction of legal racially-aggravated criminal offenses to the Criminal Code; however, ultimately, they decided otherwise, concluding, “while it is clear that some measure has to be introduced whereby a sentencing court can increase the penalty imposed where the offense is racially motivated, it is suggested that the introduction of a new range of offenses is not the most appropriate way to do this.” Among the justification given for their position, they state:
Due to the social stigma attached to being convicted of a “hate crime” or a “race crime,” defendants are unlikely to plead guilty to such an offence, thus leading to lengthy and expensive court proceedings. Proving that an offence was committed with a racist motivation or on the grounds of hostility to a standard satisfactory to the criminal law can also prove problematic. While it is important for the legislature to make it clear through the law that racism will not be tolerated, that message will lose much of its impact if there are very few convictions under the Act.
The authors believe that a better criminal law approach, in consideration of Ireland’s current legal system, would be the introduction of provisions prescribing enhanced sentences for offenses committed with a racist motive. On this point, they recommend the introduction of a new provision to “provide that where a court is determining the sentence to be imposed for any offender, and it appears to the court that the offence was one which was committed with racial or religious hostility, then the court must treat that hostility as an aggravating factor. This then ensures that a clear message is sent out that racist attacks are not tolerated by either society or the law, and that such attacks are punished accordingly without compromising the criminal law in any way.”[iv]
 The team of researchers included Professors Dermot Walsh and Jennifer Schweppe from the University of Limerick’s Center for Criminal Justice.
 ”International Human Rights Day,” National Action Plan Against Racism (NAPR), December 10, 2005, available at: http://www.diversityireland.ie/News/Current/International_Human_Rights_Day.html.
 Professors Walsh and Schweppe presented their interim findings. The seminar was chaired by Lucy Gaffner, the Chair of the NPAR, and included Dr. Robin Oakley, an E.U. specialist in combating hate crime and policing issues, and Brendan McGuigan, the Deputy Chief Inspector of the Northern Ireland Criminal Justice Inspectorate. “Seminar Held on 21/03/07 on research into the effectiveness of our legislation,” NAPR, March 21, 2007, available at: http://www.diversityireland.ie/News/Current/Seminar_on_combating_Racially_motivated_crime_in_Ireland.html.
 Jennifer Schweppe and Dermot Walsh, “Combating Racism through the Criminal Law,” School of Law, University of Limerick, March 2007.