New criminal offences will make it easier to charge and prosecute prejudice motivated threats or incitement of violence, under new laws tabled by New South Wales Parliament this week.
The Crimes Amendment (Publicly Threatening and Inciting Violence) Bill 2018 makes it a criminal offence to publicly threaten or incite violence towards a person or group of people because of their race, religious belief or affiliation, sexual orientation, gender identity, intersex status or because they have HIV or AIDS. This will replace criminal offences for serious vilification that had never been used and which do not protect bisexual, gender diverse or intersex people.
Lee Carnie, lawyer at the Human Rights Law Centre, welcomed the new criminal offences as a timely move towards stronger protections against violence.
“Every single member of our community has the right to be free from discrimination and violence. Who you are or who you love shouldn’t make you a target for attack. This is a positive step towards better protecting minority groups and the broader community from the devastating impacts of hate crime.”
If passed, the criminal offences will protect people who face threats or violence based on their religious beliefs, a gap which was highlighted in the Human Rights Law Centre’s submission to the Religious Freedom Review.
“No one should suffer being threatened with violence because of their faith, the colour of their skin or who they love. These proposed new criminal offence laws are simpler and clearer than the current serious vilification offences. The police will be more likely to be aware an offence has occurred and there will be a clearer pathway to prosecuting people who commit these hate crimes,” said Lee Carnie.
The Bill is intended to implement findings from a 2017 report on how to ensure the criminal law provides effective protection against public threats of violence. Under existing NSW civil protections, it is unlawful to incite hatred towards, serious contempt for, or severe ridicule on the basis of race, homophobia, transphobia or HIV/AIDS status.
“People in NSW have the right to freely express their personal and political beliefs, but the law draws a clear line when it comes to public attacks on members of our community which incite and threaten violence,” said Lee Carnie.
The bill does not fill all gaps in NSW discrimination and vilification laws. Unlike the majority of Australian states, NSW law does not currently protect all faith communities, bisexual people and gender diverse people from discrimination and vilification. For example a person who is discriminated against for wearing a turban, headscarf or a cross can’t lodge a discrimination complaint against someone if they are refused service in a shop.
“While we welcome the proposed reform, there remain critical broader issues with anti-discrimination laws in NSW and significant gaps in protection – for religious communities and LGBTI communities. These laws are over 40 years old – they need a complete overhaul to ensure that all people are free from discrimination,” said Lee Carnie.
A copy of the Bill can be found here.
A copy of the HRLC’s 2017 submission can be found here.
A copy of the HRLC’s 2013 submission can be found here.
For interviews or further information please call:
Michelle Bennett, Director of Communications, Human Rights Law Centre, 0419 100 519