Northern Ireland warned to ‘leave hate crime proposals well alone’

The Christian Institute has urged the Northern Ireland Executive to decisively ditch its “bad idea” of imposing sweeping changes to hate crime legislation.

Justice Minister Naomi Long is due to publish draft hate crime legislation for the Province, based on Judge Desmond Marrinan’s recommendations from 2020, which included a call to remove the ‘dwelling defence’, which protects private conversations in the home, from the law.

The CI has previously warned that allowing the police to investigate conversations in the home could target discussion on controversial issues such as same-sex marriage and gender ideology.

‘Bad idea’

Long said she intends to “modernise” the dwelling defence, rather than remove it entirely, but claimed last week that the proposed change is “not to weaken the protections in law”, but to “enhance those protections to cover any private communication irrespective of where it takes place or the medium via which it occurs”.

However, she did not clarify how the Police Service of Northern Ireland would be able to distinguish between private and public conversations in the home.

The Institute’s Deputy Director Simon Calvert commented: “Hate crime legislation of the breadth proposed is a bad idea – just ask the Scottish Government. The best approach would be to leave well alone. The Marrinan recommendations were alarming, suggesting a heedless approach to civil liberties.”

He added: “Journalists, writers and others could also find themselves in hot water if they choose to cover, or express, views that are regarded as politically unacceptable by ‘woke’ activists on social media.”

‘Chilling effect’

Speaking to the Belfast Newsletter, a spokesman for the Law Society for Northern Ireland stated: “Current hate crime legislation is designed to deal with behaviour that is sufficiently severe to reach the threshold for criminal prosecution.

“Any changes introduced must balance potential offending against the right to freedom of expression and privacy which requires protection in particular circumstances”.

When Judge Marrinan published his report in 2020, Ivan Hare QC warned of “clear potential” in the plans “to infringe the right to freedom of expression” and “a very real risk that robust and uninhibited discussion of matters of great public importance will suffer a chilling effect”.


In Scotland, the police was flooded with over 7,000 hate crime complaints in the first week of the Hate Crime and Public Order Act coming into force on 1 April.

According to a survey of more than 1,000 Scottish voters by FindOutNow on behalf of the Alba Party, almost half said the legislation should be ditched, with only five in favour of retaining it.

Although the new law remains highly controversial, significant amendments were made to the original Bill to stop it posing a major threat to evangelism and Christian comment on sexual ethics, following a campaign by The Christian Institute-backed group Free to Disagree.

Also see:

Street protestor with megaphone

‘Rein in Irish hate speech Bill’ says former proponent

Police Scotland ‘not ready’ as 4,000 hate crime complaints filed in 24 hours’

Rishi Sunak: ‘People should not be criminalised for upholding biological sex’

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