Wednesday, February 09, 2005

The Perpetrator's Prejudice

The English Centre of International PEN has sent Open Letter to Charles Clarke on
The proposed offence of 'incitement of religious hatred' in the Serious and Organised Crime and Police Bill
, signed by a long and impressive list of writers.

I happen to agree with the PEN letter, but the backlash againt the bill is too little, too late. The flawed, absurd and corrosive notion of hate crime, has already buried itself too deeply in too many institutions.

In the UK, for example, the Association of Police Officers (ACPO) has a Hate Crime Manual in which we are told that "hate crime is taken to mean any crime where the perpetrator's prejudice against an identifiable group of people is a factor in determining who is victimised".

This is how the rot sets in. Firstly, attention is deflected from the definite human victims of genuine crimes, to abstract communities of the victimised. And secondly, the hair splitting effort required to decide if an offence can be classified as a hate crime, will inevitably result in an atmosphere in which the same act is regarded as more reprehensibe if it is a hate crime than if it is not.

We can dawdle further with ACPO's cheese paring, and remember that this is how the police are being instructed by their most senior officers.

Domestic violence is not included within this guide. Many of its features are not common to hate crime as defined here. Specific guidance to ensure that domestic violence is dealt with effectively and sensitively is best given in a separate document. It is recognised that domestic violence can be racist or homophobic. Such hate crimes must be dealt with in line with guidance for domestic violence as well as with the hate crime guidance provided here.

But, let's cut to the chase. Where does this mind set lead? Last week, the BBC reported that the UN HAD RULED OUT GENOCIDE IN DARFUR. As Mark Steyn said,

That's great news, isn't it? For as yet another Annan-appointed UN committee boldly declared in December: "Genocide anywhere is a threat to the security of all and should never be tolerated." So thank goodness this isn't genocide. Instead, it's just 70,000 corpses who all happen to be from the same ethnic group - which means the UN can go on tolerating it until everyone's dead, and Polly and Clare don't have to worry their pretty little heads about it.

It's worse you see when "the perpetrator's prejudice against an identifiable group of people is a factor".

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