Examination of Witnesses (Questions 80-99)|
WEDNESDAY 12 JUNE 2002
80. I appreciate that.
(Mr Weatherill) I am not sure to what extent the Government's
statistical machine will have caught things yet but we can check
and see what statistical information, if any, is available.
(Mr Stevenson) We can give you statistics on racially
aggravated offences. For example, in the last statistics published
there were 21,750 racially aggravated offences recorded by the
police in 1990-2000.
81. So racially aggravated offences are on the
(Mr Stevenson) It is hard to tell because they were
only introduced in 1998. I do not think we have quite established
a base line for how many there are. There was certainly a significant
under reporting of those offences prior to the introduction of
(Mr Weatherill) But as you can hear there are very
substantial numbers of those offences being reported.
82. If we found that these aggravated offences
were on the increase then presumably they would be the result
of incitement by other people. You do not get people committing
racially or religiously aggravated offences unless someone has
instigated them to do that. Although you cannot produce any examples
of religious incitement there would be indirect evidence of the
existent of religious incitement if we knew about religiously
(Mr Stevenson) I think it would be extremely difficult
to make a direct link between incitement and racially aggravated
offences. The reason for that is because racially aggravated offences
are quite broadly defined, there are nine of them and they cover
a range of material. They involve not only aggravation but motivation,
hostility towards a racial group in connection with a basic offence.
I think it would be quite difficult to draw a direct link between
incitement and the racially aggravated offences figures.
Lord Avebury: I think it would be useful for
the Committee to have that information.
83. I think perhaps one of the ways that you
could help us on this is on the sentencing side because that after
all was the genesis of introducing this new form of aggravation,
so where the maximum penalties were rather low for a non-aggravated
offence they were increased in 1998 for the racially aggravated
(Mr Weatherill) Indeed.
84. It is the parallel with that that we are
now concerned with. I do not know whether there is any information
at all about courts having felt that they were unable to impose
severe penalties on particular occasions because there was no
such thing as religiously aggravated offences.
(Mr Weatherill) We can have a look at that for you.
85. I think that is partly what Lord Avebury
was trying to achieve. Could I go on then. We have got a number
of questions that we have really covered already about the other
parts of the United Kingdom and you told us, for instance, what
offences there are in Scotland. Is there anything to be learned
from the operation of the 1987 Public Order (Northern Ireland)
legislation that we could usefully take on board?
(Mr Weatherill) The experience in Northern Ireland
has been that the new offences have not been very much used but
they have been used. There is nothing in the Northern Ireland
experience which would lead Government to pause in believing that
the same approach should be adopted in England and Wales.
86. I think there is one thing I missed out
on question 14. We all now know about e-mails and we did ask about
electronically devised aggravations. Would you be able to identify
anything of that sort, a modern version of stirring things up?
(Mr Stevenson) The 1986 Act was certainly never designed
with e-mails and the Internet in mind but it does actually cover
quite usefully, because it refers to text and signs and images,
both electronic mail and Internet web pages. The principle that
the Government follows is what is illegal off-line should be illegal
on-line provided it falls within the United Kingdom's jurisdiction.
87. We are still, I think, looking for examples.
(Mr Stevenson) Electronic mail would be difficult
because it could be private communications. We may be able to
direct you towards some web pages which had they been posted in
the United Kingdom could be considered possibly illegal under
the provisions of Lord Avebury's Bill but which are not illegal
because they are not in our jurisdiction.
88. I think there are websites that have caused
concern, are there not?
(Mr Stevenson) Yes.
89. Do you have contact with the Internet Watch
Foundation which I understand monitors possible criminal offences
committed on the web although they appear to concentrate most
of their energy on child pornography?
(Mr Stevenson) We do have contact with the Internet
Watch Foundation. Although their priority is child pornography
they do have a remit to cover racially inflammatory material and
they do report complaints from their hotline to the Home Office
and to the police.
90. Would they be helpful, do you think?
(Mr Stevenson) We can certainly let you see what has
been directed to us from the Internet Watch Foundation. Again,
some of those cases are forwarded to the police for investigation
and some of them do not fall within the UK's jurisdiction but
we can certainly add that to the information that you would like.
91. I want to try and meet my deadline, so if
we could move on. We have already touched upon Articles 9 and
10 of the European Convention. Am I right in thinking that the
qualifications to Articles 9 and 10 will be sufficient to allow
legislation along the sort of lines that we are talking about
but not to infringe people's rights under that Convention?
(Mr Weatherill) So the Government believes and the
Anti-terrorism Bill was so certified to that effect when it was
92. That was the basis of the certifications,
(Mr Weatherill) Yes.
93. I think Lady Perry might be interested in
the qualifications because those are really the safeguard and
the degree of flexibility that an individual government
(Mr Weatherill) The qualifications under Article 10
of the Convention?
94. Particularly 10 but 9 has got a qualification
too, I understand.
(Mr Weatherill) Indeed, 9 and 10, they are both relevant.
95. In question 19, and I dare say you are going
to tell us you have not got any examples, we were led to believe
that some religious incitement to hatred had been used in order
to disguise what was in fact incitement to racial hatred which
would otherwise have been criminal. Does that make any sense at
(Mr Weatherill) Yes, we believe that the position
is exactly that. Perhaps in the light of the comments you made
earlier we can have a look and see if there is some material we
could specifically give you in support of that assertion.
96. That is a valid point, is it?
(Mr Weatherill) Absolutely.
97. Lastly, you touched on this already, I do
not think that the discrimination area is likely to give rise
to criminal offences, which we take to be your terms of reference,
but can you give us a little bit more information about progress
in implementing the European Community Directive on Ageism
(Mr Weatherill) It is the full range of equalities,
98. Religious discrimination and something else.
(Mr Weatherill) Sexuality.
(Mr Weatherill) Gender and sexuality, sexual orientation.