Written Answers - Proposed Legislation

Tuesday, 6 December 2011

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 748 No. 6

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 259.  Deputy Anne Ferris Information on Anne Ferris Zoom on Anne Ferris  asked the Minister for Justice and Equality Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter  when he expects to publish legislation that will reform the law on mental capacity; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38393/11]

Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Alan Shatter): Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter The Government Legislation Programme indicates that the Mental Capacity Bill is expected to be published in early 2012. The Bill will reform the law on mental capacity taking into account the Law Reform Commission’s Report on Vulnerable Adults and the Law. The Bill will replace the Wards of Court system with a modern statutory framework governing decision-making on behalf of adults who lack capacity.

 260.  Deputy Simon Harris Information on Simon Harris Zoom on Simon Harris  asked the Minister for Justice and Equality Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter  his plans to introduce new, or amend existing legislation dealing with race hate crimes and incitement to cause racial hatred; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38394/11]

Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Alan Shatter): Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter Under the Prohibition of Incitement to Hatred Act 1989 it is an offence, inter alia, to use words, publish or distribute written material, or broadcast any visual images or sounds which are threatening, abusive or insulting [1067]and are intended, or, having regard to all the circumstances, are likely to stir up hatred. The word “hatred” is defined as “hatred against a group of persons in the State or elsewhere on account of their race, colour, nationality, religion, ethnic or national origins, membership of the travelling community or sexual orientation”. The State’s prosecutorial authorities have not brought to my notice any difficulties due to legislative deficiencies in bringing prosecutions under the 1989 Act.

In addition to the foregoing legislation, where criminal offences such as assault, criminal damage, or public order offences, are committed with a racist motive they are prosecuted as generic offences through the wider criminal law. The trial judge can take aggravating factors, including racial motivation, into account at sentencing. The gravity of the offence, the facts surrounding the commission of the offence, the criminal record of the accused and the impact on the victim are among the critical factors taken into account before a sentence is imposed. The judge must take into account the circumstances of the offence and the offender. Also, the Director of Public Prosecutions can appeal against the sentence imposed if he believes it to be unduly lenient.

In all the circumstances, I have no plans, at present, for new or amended legislation to deal with incitement to hatred or racially motivated crime.


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