Hate crime legislation ‘not fit for purpose’ as FOI reveals just three convictions in three decades

There have been only three convictions for hate crimes in the past three decades, according to new figures.

Ireland’s hate crime legislation, the Prohibition of Incitement to Hatred Act 1989, makes it an offence to make or distribute discriminatory material, The Irish Times reports.

Offenders can be jailed for up to two years or fined.

The Courts Service has now revealed, under a freedom of information request, that there have been 44 prosecutions under the Act since 2000, five of which have resulted in convictions.

It said there are no figures from before the year 2000, though the Department of Justice said that no convictions had been recorded by 2000.

The department said it is considering reform of the law while Fianna Fáil has introduced a Private Members’ Bill, currently before the Oireachtas.

The legislation is not fit for purpose according to anti-discrimination campaigners who said a broader regime is needed as racist incidents increase.

A survey by the Immigrant Council of Ireland said there were 240 reports of racist incidents in 2015, a jump of 11 per cent on the previous year. Of these, about 40 per cent were against Muslims.

Of the two people jailed under the 1989 Act, one served a month in 2012 and another served four months in 2014.

Of the 44 cases, 22 were struck out or dismissed while seven were withdrawn by the Director of Public Prosecutions.

Shane Curry of the European Network against Racism, said the law was “not fit for purpose”.

“This view is shared by several international monitoring bodies. What we need in not incitement to hatred legislation, but actual hate-crime legislation,” he added.