Hate crime in England and Wales: the Law Commission’s recommendations

by Marcial Boo

Published: 19 May 2023

In 2021, the Law Commission published recommendations relating to hate crime in England and Wales. They outline how the law can better protect people with protected characteristics and ensure justice for victims of hate crime.

Violence against women and girls

The Law Commission recommended that misogyny should not be made a hate crime. This was based on a lack of stakeholder consensus on how the proposal would work, and what the benefits might be. They noted that it could add unhelpful complexity to the prosecution of Violence Against Women and Girls (VAWG) by creating a ‘hierarchy’ of offences. The Government accepted this recommendation. Given the research and consultation that went into the Law Commission’s report, we recognise the challenges in designating misogyny a hate crime. But we are also clear that more needs to be done to tackle the root causes of misogyny and violence against women and girls.

This is why the Government should make a renewed commitment to deliver the actions in its Rape Review, VAWG Strategy and Tackling Domestic Abuse Plan. The Council of Europe is evaluating the Government’s compliance with the Convention on Preventing and Combating Violence Against Women and Domestic Violence (also known as the Istanbul Convention). We look forward to hearing how the Government’s activities are complying with these international legal obligations as well as its own policies to protect women and girls.

Ensuring parity in the hate crime legal framework

The Law Commission made other recommendations to the Government, which it has yet to respond to. In particular, the Law Commission recommended creating parity between protected characteristic groups in the hate crime legal framework. This is because, at present, not all offences apply to hate crime against LGBT and disabled people. This includes aggravated offences and ‘stirring up’ offences.

This is a ‘hierarchy of protection’ that is widely seen as unfair. We agree with the Law Commission that this risks a perception that hate crimes against some groups are more serious than those against others. It also makes hate crime law unnecessarily confusing.  

The Government should respond to and act on these recommendations. Equal treatment in hate crime law would provide greater protection for LGBT and disabled people. It would also show that hate crime against people with all protected characteristics is equally unacceptable.