CI: ‘Family privacy at risk from NI hate crime proposals’

The Christian Institute has criticised the Stormont Executive for proposing sweeping changes to hate crime legislation which could profoundly restrict religious liberty and free speech.

Among the proposals being consulted on is the removal of a ‘dwelling defence’ from the law in the province, meaning the Police Service of Northern Ireland would be given powers to investigate conversations in the home.

The CI has previously warned that the removal of the ‘dwelling defence’ would target family discussions on controversial issues such as same-sex marriage and radical transgender ideology.

Same-sex marriage

The proposals were contained in part one of the consultation, which closes next week. Part two, expected later this year, will cover the scope of any new offences in more detail.

These are expected to include more of the recommendations made by Judge Desmond Marrinan in his 997-page report, after he was commissioned by the Executive to review hate crime legislation.

Judge Marrinan has advanced the view that the free speech protection for those who disagree with same-sex marriage should be scrapped. However, 97 per cent of individuals who responded to his consultation supported keeping the protection.


Simon Calvert, the Institute’s Deputy Director for Public Affairs, said: “The dwelling defence is well established and there is no evidence of it currently causing any problems.

“The Marrinan report gave no specific cases of the dwelling defence getting in the way of a justifiable prosecution. They are offering a solution to a problem that does not exist.

“The home should be a sanctuary for discussions and debate without fear of police intervention. You can’t have the police arbitrating on what can be talked about around the dinner table.”

Private conversations

He continued: “The Department of Justice talks about replacing the dwelling defence with a ‘private conversations’ defence. We think the dwelling defence should be retained and additional protections introduced for other private conversations.

“The dwelling defence should be retained to protect family life, even if further protections for private conversations are brought in. Defining a dwelling is far easier than defining a private conversation.

“The difficulty of defining ‘private conversation’ illustrates that the dwelling defence should be preserved as an important backstop.”

Proclaiming Christ

The Institute’s Callum Webster has also previously warned: “Hate crime laws have been used against Christians, both in the UK and around the world.

“Judge Marrinan’s recommendations, particularly on ‘stirring up hatred’ offences, could easily impact our freedom to proclaim Christ as the only way of salvation, or to call people to repent of sin.”

Also see:

Free speech

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Hate crime proposals for England and Wales ‘must be challenged’

‘UK Govt must buttress free speech’: Adam Smith Institute