Change to Victorian hate laws

July 28, 2009 by J-Wire Staff
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The Brumby Labor Government will legislate later this year to ensure sentencing laws take into account crimes motivated by hate or prejudice.

Deputy Premier and Attorney-General Rob Hulls said the Government had now received advice from the Sentencing Advisory Council on amending the Sentencing Act following the Government’s referral in June.

“The Council has come back with a number of recommendations based on my referral which our Government will consider,” Mr Hulls said.

“The Council has suggested explicit legislative recognition that courts, in sentencing, have regard to whether the offence was motivated by hate for or prejudice against a particular group of people with common characteristics.

“It has also suggested courts will be able to impose more severe sentences for offences motivated by hatred.

“Sentencing courts would make it clear that crimes motivated by hatred or prejudice will not be tolerated by the community. This would not only punish an offender and denounce their conduct, but it could serve as a deterrent to other offenders committing crimes motivated by hatred or prejudice.”

Mr Hulls said the Council’s report said that when a victim was selected by an offender because of their hatred for or prejudice towards the victim’s identity, the harm caused was serious, significant and far-reaching.

“All Victorians are entitled to feel safe in their community,” Mr Hulls said. “The prevailing attitude in our community is that hate crimes are totally unacceptable. We saw that in the Walk for harmony and we are aiming to mirror that sentiment in new legislation.”

Mr Hulls said the recommendations were available on the Sentencing Advisory Council’s web site for the community to view.

“The Brumby Labor Government has been considering for some time the issue of violence and other crimes based on hatred of a person’s race, gender, religion, sexual orientation, age, disability, ethnicity or language,” Mr Hulls said.

“We are looking at a range of reforms that send a clear message that attacks against any Victorian based on these factors cannot be tolerated.”

The Government will continue to consult widely with the community on this issue, including with the Jewish Community Council of Victoria (JCCV), gay and lesbian groups, the Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission, student groups, cultural communities and interested individuals.

The Sentencing Advisory Council’s recommendations can be found at www.sentencingcouncil.vic.gov.au

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