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Hate crime laws undermine freedom of speech and should be scrapped

Hate crime laws should be abolished and new legislation passed creating an absolute right to free speech, a new Civitas publication argues.

Civitas director David G. Green warns that the rise of victim culture is undermining freedom of speech and equality under the law as identity groups seek to secure special treatment.

He sets out how the emergence of ‘hate crimes’ has weakened the impartiality of the police and the judiciary by treating offences more seriously when they are committed against certain groups.

‘Victim groups are not just political factions pressing for preferential treatment. They also undermine one of the fundamental building blocks of a free society, the equal legal status of its members,’ Dr Green writes.

‘The impartiality of the main criminal justice agencies, the courts and the police, has been weakened, and the creation of “hate crimes” has led to the abandonment of the ideal of even-handedness in policing.’

Hate crimes were initially created in England and Wales by the 1998 Crime and Disorder Act, which provided that crimes such as assault and criminal damage were more serious if carried out with racial motivation.

Later the provision was extended to religious hostility and then, under the 2003 Criminal Justice Act, murder was to be regarded as ‘particularly’ serious if it was religiously or racially aggravated or aggravated by sexual orientation.

The preferential treatment having originally applied only to racial groups, it has gradually been extended to five groups and many others are campaigning for similar protection. The Law Commission is currently reviewing whether the laws should be extended further.

Dr Green writes: ‘At some point if all demands are met, there will be so few people left out that we might ask ourselves what was wrong with having one law for all.’

He calls for all hate crime laws to be scrapped, including aggravated offences under the 1998 Crime and Disorder Act, and enhanced sentences under the 2003 Criminal Justice Act.

Dr Green also proposes the abolition of Section 5 of the 1986 Public Order Act (but the retention of Sections 4 and 4a), and for the creation of ‘an unambiguous legal right to freedom of expression’.

‘We urgently need to remind ourselves of the essential features of liberty so that we can defend it against subtle enemies. Liberty means living under equal laws intended to create the security to take personal responsibility for our own affairs.

‘To be free is to be equal under law and to enjoy personal responsibility – the chance to follow your own plan of life.’

Dr Green describes how the liberal tradition was built on an aversion to power being abused by the favourites of the Crown.

‘The liberal alternative was for all members of society to seek only those laws that were for the good of all,’ he writes.

‘Historically, we have been accustomed to groups putting forward arguments for laws to be passed in order to give them an advantage. However, the expectation that law should serve the common good has generally made it necessary for anyone seeking private gain to claim that there is some public benefit involved.

‘Victim culture, as we see it emerging today, is not compatible with either liberty or democracy.’

We're Nearly All Victims Now!

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