By Joleen Murphy
Ireland is set to legislate against hate crime for the first time with the Justice Minister proposing a series of new offences.
If passed the laws would mean harsher sentences if a crime is deemed to be motivated by prejudice against certain people.
The Bill from Justice Minister Helen McEntee would create aggregated offences for existing crimes if they're deemed to be driven by prejudice towards individuals because of who they are.
This would apply to crimes against someone based on their race, colour, nationality, religion and ethnic background including traveler ethnicity.
Crimes committed because of someone's sexual orientation, gender or disability would also fall under the new laws.
They would carry harsher convictions - for example assault causing harm carries a maximum of five years in prison.
Assault causing harm aggravated by being a hate crime would mean a max 7 year jail term.
Crimes like coercion, harassment, criminal damage and threatening to kill or seriously injure someone would also fall under these aggregated offences if deemed to be carried out because of prejudice.
If a jury finds a crime was committed, but it isn't a hate crime, then the lower sentence can be given.
The General Scheme of the Criminal Justice (Hate Crime) Bill also provides for changes to laws around incitement to hatred, and an increase of the maximum sentence from two to five years under indictment for that offence.
If passed this would be the first time that Ireland has legislated for hate crime, with Minister Helen McEntee hoping the laws will be enacted next year.