National frameworks to address hate crime in Ireland
This page provides information on the national frameworks to address hate crime in Ireland. The information provided here should be viewed alongside data presented on Ireland's hate crime report page.
Hate crime recording and data collection
Hate crime data is provided to the Central Statistics Office by the An Garda Síochána (the National Police Force of Ireland – the Garda), in line with Section 47 of the Garda Síochána Act of 2005 (amended). The Act places an obligation on the Garda Commissioner to compile and store statistical information concerning offences and to make it available to the Minister (Justice and Equality) and the Central Statistics Office. Data is made publicly available. In the absence of hate crime legislation, the current approach to recording hate crime in Ireland is through the identification of a base offence that is assigned one or more bias motivations, as follows: ageism, anti-disability, anti-Muslim, anti-Roma, anti-Semitism, anti-Traveller, gender-related, homophobia, racism, sectarian and transphobia. The Prohibition of Incitement to Hatred Act of 1989 can also be utilized.
Data are recorded on PULSE, which is the national production database containing records that are being worked on and which are subject to change. In October 2019, the Garda launched a Diversity and Integration Strategy 2019-2021, which focuses on enhancing the identification, reporting, recording, investigation, and prosecution of hate crimes. It contains a working hate crime definition (below) that is in line with international good practices and the McPherson "perception test". It also recognizes the current and emerging diversity of our communities, and aims to protect all diverse and minority groups in society.
According to the definition, a hate crime is "[a]ny criminal offence which is perceived, by the victim or any other person to, in whole or in part, be motivated by hostility or prejudice, based on actual or perceived age, disability, race, colour, nationality, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation or gender". This definition is used as a guide when determining if a crime should be recorded as a hate crime. Currently, non-crime hate incidents that do not meet the threshold of criminality are not recorded as hate crimes.
As outlined in the Strategy, the Garda is upgrading its PULSE database system. As of October 2020, the system allows for the recording of non-criminal hate incidents based on the presence of one or more bias motivations per the hate crime definition mentioned above. Policy and procedures on responding to hate crimes and non-criminal hate incidents have been developed and are supported by guidance documents on recording hate crime.
The Garda has also formalized third-party reporting with a "Third Party Referral Agreement" to allow CSOs to refer cases of hate crime directly to the Garda National Diversity and Integration Unit, which examines and takes action on each referral. In July 2021, the Garda launched an online hate crime reporting system to make it easier for victims to report such crimes.
In December 2021, policy and procedures on "Responding to Hate Crimes and Non-Crime Hate Incidents" were introduced. The policy document is publicly available on the Garda website, while the internal procedures document provides detailed instructions on identifying, reporting, recording, investigating and prosecuting hate crimes. It also outlines the roles and responsibilities of all parties involved in the process.
Hate crime victim support
Ireland provides both general victim support and specialized support to victims of hate crime, including those targeted by a specific bias. However, victims of hate crime do not have a status different from that of other crime victims.
Irish law obliges the police, An Garda Síochána (the Garda), to have a Garda Victim Services Office in each of its 28 divisions to serve as the main focal points for crime victims. In addition, the Garda National Diversity and Integration Unit is a specialist police unit responsible for co-ordinating, monitoring, and advising on all aspects of policing in Ireland's diverse communities.
There are also 384 Garda Ethnic Liaison Officers appointed to work with minority communities at the local level. These officers, together with the Garda Racial, Intercultural and Diversity Office, play a fundamental role in liaising with minority groups and helping to prevent hate crime. The office and officers provide specialist advice and assistance to victims of hate or racist crime where necessary.
In addition, there are Divisional Protective Service Units, which are specially trained Garda units tasked with improving services to victims of crime, including victims of hate crime. Where available, officers representing these units are engaged at first contact with the victim. Moreover, the Garda has specialized Gay Liaison Officers dealing with hate crimes against members of the LGBTI. Garda Family Liaison Officers are assigned to families of murder victims.
There is a procedure in place to conduct individual needs assessments (INAs). If necessary, police can also apply special protection measures, including engaging a police officer or doctor of the same gender as the victim. Victims can be accompanied by persons of their choice when reporting to the police, obtain copies of their statements, be informed about the arrest or release of the perpetrator, and be provided with interpretation services.
Victims can choose to be referred to support services by the Garda Victim Services Offices. Depending on the results of the INA, these might be general support services, or services tailored to the needs of hate crime victims. In the latter case, the referral procedure is informal and services are often provided by civil society organizations. There is also a National Crime Victims Helpline, which can refer victims to the relevant service provider. Victim support services are free of charge. Victims can complain about their treatment by police at the Garda Victim Services Offices. The complaints are dealt with by the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission.
During court proceedings, there are a number of special arrangements available to victims, including separate entrances/exits to the court building, the possibility to exclude the public from the court hearing, and the use by victims of video conferencing equipment or a screen. In some circumstances, victims are entitled to free legal aid. Decisions on compensation for crime victims are dealt with by the Criminal Injuries Compensation Tribunal. After an offender's conviction, a court may also order that victims are paid compensation as part of the sentence.
Under Irish law, restorative justice solutions are available and are delivered by the Probation Service, which is an agency of the Department of Justice and Equality. The Probation Service has a Restorative Justice and Victim Services Unit, which assists in the process.