Hate Crime Rarely Prosecuted in Australia

With the recent tragic events of Christchurch and Sri Lanka, some have called hate crime laws into question for their lack of use in Australia. Only 21 people have received convictions for hate crimes, despite the thousands of reported offences involving discrimination across the nation.

Disturbingly, a recent study revealed approximately three offences have classifications as motivated by prejudice every day. This rarely-prosecuted offence sends a message that racist and hateful behaviour is acceptable in our country.

Classes protected by hate crime legislation

Hate crime laws vary in each state. However, traditionally the general aim of these laws are to prevent vilification or incitement of violence on the basis of prejudice towards one’s:

  • race,
  • religion
  • sexuality

In New South Wales, there have been no convictions for threatening or inciting violence on the basis of prejudice since the introduction of hate crime laws in 1994. Similarly, South Australia has no record of hate crime convictions since the introduction of the Racial Vilification Act in 1996.

NSW amendments to hate crime legislation

Last year, NSW urgently passed the Crimes Amendment (Publicly Threatening and Inciting Violence) Act 2018 (NSW) to broaden protections from hate crime. The 2018 Amending Act inserted section 93Z into the Crimes Act 1900. This section made it an offence to publicly threaten or incite violence towards a person or group of people because of :

  • race,
  • religious belief or affiliation,
  • sexual orientation,
  • gender identity,
  • intersex status
  • or having HIV or AIDS.

This replaced the “serious” vilification offences in the Anti-Discrimination Act 1997, which were widely acknowledged to be ineffective. Still, there are yet to be any convictions of hate crimes on record.

Why are hate crime convictions so low?

This weak outcome across the country may be a result of legislation capturing only certain types of vilification. Along with the fact that this offence is easily dismissed by court. Additionally, there may be an issue with the way in which police authorities track and analyse incidents of hate crime.

Former race discrimination commissioner Tim Southphommasane said it would be difficult to prevent major hate crimes if common cases of racial vilification and abuse didn’t receive police action.

He also said that if we continue to turn a blind eye to the seriousness of this offence, then we are allowing the issue of hate crime to snowball to its extreme measures.

If you have been charged with a hate crime, then do the following:

Contact O’Brien Criminal and Civil Solicitors on (02) 9261 4281 to set up a free appointment with the defence lawyers in our Sydney office. 24 hour phone / text: 0421 373 961

Hate crimes discrimination harassment racism