The Chief Inspector of Criminal Justice in Northern Ireland has called for a review of hate crime legislation in Northern Ireland.
Brendan McGuigan said it was one of a number of key recommendations included in a new report published by Criminal Justice Inspection Northern Ireland (CJI).
He said: “The report identified that specific statutory offences such as hate crimes of assault and criminal damage had been introduced in England and Wales over and above the enhanced sentencing powers that were available in Northern Ireland.
“I have therefore recommended that the DoJ conduct a review of hate crime legislation in Northern Ireland to establish if change is required and whether the introduction of statutory offences, similar to those in England and Wales, would be beneficial.”
Mr McGuigan also called on the PSNI to use hate crime specific scenarios when training officers, so they could understand how best to overcome barriers when interviewing victims and witnesses of hate incidents to achieve the best evidence available.
The Northern Ireland Prison Service has also been urged to immediately develop and implement a hate crime strategy.
Mr McGuigan said: “The whole of society, including leaders at every level, have a responsibility to recognise the damaging impact hate crime has on communities and to confront and find solutions to it.
“There must be a clear unequivocal, consistent message that hate incidents cannot and will not be tolerated and individuals must have the courage and confidence to challenge hate incidents that occur.