Hate crime proposals for England and Wales would “erode the concept of equality before the law and curtail free expression”, according to a new report by the Civitas think-tank.
The Law Commission has laid out its plans to lower the threshold for hate crimes to be committed, including criminalising so-called “hate speech” even in private dwellings.
The report’s author, Dr Joanna Williams, said the Law Commission’s proposals “must be challenged”.
Dr Williams, the Director of the Freedom, Democracy and Victimhood Project at Civitas, warned that if the law is changed: “The combined effect of lowering the threshold of ‘hostility’ and broadening the criteria for protected characteristics will be to bring far more people into contact with the police and criminalise a far wider range of speech and behaviour.”
“Every aspect of people’s lives will come under legal scrutiny in order to promote a set of state sanctioned values that have been determined by lawyers rather than voted on by the electorate”, she added.
Dr Williams said that “definitions of hate crime are subjective”, and with every addition of legislation or police guidance, the state “comes to define what is offensive, threatening or abusive”.
She recommended that existing hate crime legislation should not be extended, the police should no longer record non-crime hate incidents and that activists’ influence should be reduced.
Earlier this month, free speech campaigners warned that the Law Commission’s plan to remove protections in law would open up conversations in the home to police intervention.
The removal of a ‘dwelling defence’ would mean that private conversations in the home about controversial issues such as same-sex marriage or transgender ideology could result in prosecution.
The Christian Institute’s Ciarán Kelly said: “Restricting free speech, and policing ‘acceptable’ and ‘unacceptable’ views, sows division and resentment. The Government needs to realise how dangerous the Law Commission’s proposals are.”
He welcomed Dr Williams intervention and called on the Government to “place free speech ahead of feeling offended”.