Big News: Hate Crime – Don’t You Just Hate It?
Hate Crime – Don’t You Just Hate It?
It goes on, doesn’t it. Every time a bill is drafted, it seems, something is wrong with it. The Sentencing and Parole Reform Bill is the latest piece of legislation that mouths, emotions, and word processors were engaged before anybody thought of engaging their brain. And ironically, it is one clause of this bill that was inserted by a homosexual activist at a select committee stage that has caused the most debate. They call it a “hate crime”.
Hate crimes - crimes committed against individuals belonging to a particular "class" of person - could soon be treated under the law as an "additional aggravating factor" to be taken into account by judges at sentencing. Coincidentally, the main groups that are specified – race, sexual orientation, the aged and religion – are groups that the government will be targeting for votes at the election.
It works like this: If I beat up a teenager because he swore at me, I could be up for assault. But should the Bill go through in its current form and I beat up a Christian or a homosexual because I can't stand Christians or homosexuals, to take two examples, I would not just be up for assault. As I am committing a "hate crime" I could get a harsher sentence.
But why should I get a harsher sentence, especially if the damage in both cases were similar? Punishment should fit crimes, not what criminals think of a class of people, even if one is a victim. Surely all individuals have equal value in the eyes of the law, regardless of whether they are from a minority group, and regardless of my attitude toward them?
If we are to legislate and punish attitudes to people, rather than crimes, how can the courts treat people equally under the law?
The proposed hate crime legislation has got nothing to do with hate. It is more about giving unnecessary special protection to classes of people – especially homosexuals. It breaches our constitutional assurance of equality before the law. It establishes special classes of people, such as gay people or Maori, by giving priority to their safety. This makes one person’s life more valuable or important than another’s.
If you pass laws like this then you may as well pass another law that says certain groups in society should have two votes, or should be able to pay less tax because of the class of people they are. I mean, If women didn’t have the vote or we were living in a caste system like India, these proposed laws wouldn’t be so controversial. But this is NZ, the first country that gave women the vote.
In reality, all sentences for hate crime may well be determined by two things: What the judge considered was going through the mind of the offender and what that judge thought of crimes against the victim. How can a judge base a sentence on what a criminal thought?
And what will that sentence be? Proponents of the hate crimes amendment maintain judges must give tougher sentences to those convicted of hate crime. But the bill doesn’t provide sentencing guidelines for hate crimes, and it appears to deliberately exclude a deterrence provision – at least in the operative provisions.
The provisions may mean that every sentence for a hate crime, such as assault of a homosexual, could be successfully appealed as there is no legal framework for such sentencing – although there are sentencing guidelines for the assault.
Nothing in the Bill prohibits a gay judge ordering a harsh sentence to an offender of a hate crime against a homosexual if he is favourable to homosexuals. If that offender was Muslim and the judge was prejudiced against Muslims, an even harsher crime sentence could be handed down.
Many will say that’s unjust, because that is not treating offenders equally under the law.
Surely provisions for sentencing and deterrents for such actions must be considered in a select committee submission on hate crime. No one appeared to have thought of that.
- Dave Crampton is a Wellington-based freelance
journalist. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org