Difficult Hate Terms Defined Conclusively Criminology Essay

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Why is Hate Crime Such a Difficult Term to Define Conclusively? Hate crime is a relatively new concept which originated during the 1980’s in the US after a series of incidents directed towards Jews, Asians and Blacks (Green, McFalls and Smith, 2001). The term was brought to Europe and the UK in the 1990’s, and hate crime became a prominent issue after the 1999 McPherson Report into the murder of Stephen Lawrence, a black teenager in London (Bowling and Phillips, 2003). It is a concept which is often used by politicians, the media, the Criminal Justice System and the public; although they often do not fully understand what the term means (Hall, 2005). This essay will explore the term hate crime and try to understand why there is no definitive definition of it, and the reasons for the many conflicting definitions.

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The Criminal Justice Act 2003 states that this prejudice needs to be present at the time of the offence, shortly before or shortly after (Hall, 2005). The level of prejudice is hard to define as hate crime is a socially constructed concept and therefore it is often down an individual to determine if the prejudice was sufficient (Jacobs and Potter, 1998). Because of the difficulties in defining the amount of prejudice required it is difficult to define a hate crime, as there is differences in interpretations of the levels of prejudice required because it is an individual decision, and therefore there is no specific measure of when a crime becomes a crime of prejudice towards the victim’s identity and therefore a hate crime, or what is acceptable or unacceptable prejudice (Hall, 2005).

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The essay then went on to discuss different victim groups who are classified as borderline hate crime groups. This includes ageism, Goths and other ‘new’ youth subcultures as well as sectarianism; although these groups do not fit Perry’s definition of what a hate crime is, they are recognised as a hate crime by many people, due to the effects that crimes on these groups can have. The final section of this essay explored incitement of hated, and how laws to prevent this have caused much debate over the protection of human rights to comment and criticise ideas (BBC News, 2004). This section discussed how hate crime laws can be seen as being a way of punishing people’s thoughts, rather than their actions as these laws can increase sentences for perpetrators based on the reasons for their actions rather than the actions themselves.

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