Hate Crimes Act needed to protect LGBTI people from prejudice

Hate Crimes Act needed to protect LGBTI people from prejudice

The Human Rights Law Centre will today launch a report calling for stronger protections from hate speech and hate crime in Victoria.

End the Hate: Responding to prejudice motivated speech and violence against the LGBTI Community reveals how current laws and policies are failing to protect LGBTI people from hate crime and hate conduct and outlines how the tide can be turned with 23 recommendations for reform.

Lee Carnie, senior lawyer at the Human Rights Law Centre, said all human beings should be treated with equal dignity and respect.

“No one should be a target because of who they are or who they love. We should all be able to walk down the street without being attacked or abused. Hate crimes target marginalised and vulnerable members of our communities with devastating impact.”

Acting Deputy Commissioner with Victoria Police, Luke Cornelius, said he wants to ensure that Victoria Police has both the capability and capacity to respond to and prevent prejudice motivated crimes within the community.

“Targets of prejudice motivated crimes should feel safe to come forward and report to Victoria Police, knowing they will be empowered and supported throughout the process,” Acting Deputy Commissioner Cornelius said.

The report, launched one year after the marriage equality postal survey, highlights the negative impact of hate speech and hate crimes during the survey on the health and wellbeing of LGBTI people.

“LGBTI people reported that verbal and physical assaults more than doubled during last year’s postal survey. This is absolutely unacceptable. Hate speech and hate crimes that target people because of who they are affect how safe they feel in our communities but also diminish our society as a whole,” said Lee Carnie.

The report calls for comprehensive reform in law, policies and practice including in the following key areas:

  • Stronger legal protections: a Hate Crimes Act to create new specific hate crime offences and introduce protections from hate speech protecting LGBTI people.

  • Improving data collection: ensuring police are properly trained to identify prejudice motivation and support victims, more accurate police data collection and fund assisted third party reporting to improve rates of incident reporting. 

  • Community education and support: fund educational resources for LGBTI community members, broad based public awareness campaigns to reduce prejudice and support programs for LGBTI victims of hate crime.

“We don’t know exactly how many LGBTI people are victims of hate crimes because people are often reluctant to report, and when they do this data is not accurately recorded. Third party reporting has been introduced overseas so people can be supported by trusted community organisations to report these crimes to police.”

The report identifies current gaps in the law. In 2009, specific provisions were inserted into the Sentencing Act to allow for heavier sentences in cases where crimes were found to be motivated by prejudice, but these have rarely been used. The report calls for a new approach. 

“Victoria needs a dedicated Hate Crimes Act. Add-on sentencing provisions clearly aren’t enough to curb hate crime, and there are currently no federal or Victorian protections against LGBTI related hate speech. A Hate Crimes Act sends a clear message to people who commit or incite violence based on their hatred of LGBTI people that this will not be tolerated,” said Carnie.

This report contains images and content that people may find distressing or disturbing.

If this report raises issues for you, and you or someone you know needs support right now, please call Lifeline on 13 11 14 or Swtichboard on 1800 184 527

Download the report: End the Hate: Responding to prejudice motivated speech and violence against the LGBTI Community

For media requests and interviews call:

Michelle Bennett, Director of Communications, Human Rights Law Centre, 0419 100 519