Should hate crimes be reformed?
The body that keeps the law under review has launched a consultation on "inconsistent" hate crimes legislation.
Law Commissionsaid only protects some minority groups better than others.
The criminal justice agencies monitor crime related to five main characteristics – disability, gender identity, race, religion and sexual orientation.
A crime is recorded as a hate crime if the victim or anyone else believes it to have been motivated by hostility or prejudice based on one of these characteristics.
Under the Crime and Disorder Act 1988 some crimes such as assault or criminal damage are prosecuted as aggravated offences.
These offences attract higher sentences if the offender demonstrates hostility or is motivated by racial or religious hostility at the time of the offence.
However, if the hostility or motivation relate to disability, sexual orientation or gender identity, the offence does not count as aggravated, although the court does still have the power to impose a higher sentence.
Professor David Ormerod QC, the Law Commissioner leading on the project says:
“Reforming the law would bring consistency.
“It would extend the protection of hate crime legislation and bring recognition to all victims who are targeted because of their disability, gender identity, race, religion or sexual orientation.
“But it may be that the existing legislation and the power of the court to enhance sentencing for these offences already provides victims with adequate remedies, and the price we might pay for reform could outweigh the benefits.”
The Public Order Act 1986 punishes people who publish material that is intended to stir up hatred against people on the grounds of race, religion or sexual orientation.
But it does not provide the same protection to people where the grounds for stirring up hatred relate to disability or gender identity.
Law Commissionconsultation, which closes on 27 September, will consider if new offences are adequately covered by existing criminal offences and if existing power of the courts to enhance sentencing in such cases already provide sufficient remedy.
Get the inside track on what MPs and Peers are talking about. Sign up to The House's morning email for the latest insight and reaction from Parliamentarians, policy-makers and organisations.