More than half of hate-related incidents occurred in the Dublin region last year, according to the latest figures from An Garda Síochána.
Gardaí recorded 448 hate crimes and “hate-related incidents” in 2021, of which 226 occurred in the Dublin area.
It is the first time the Garda has released figures in this format. They are intended to serve a baseline for future comparison of hate-related offending.
As well as hate crimes, the Garda has started recording hate-related incidents which do not meet the threshold of an offence, for example if a person is subjected to a racial slur on the street.
The official definition of a hate-related incident is: “Any non-crime incident which is perceived by any person to, in whole or in part, be motivated by hostility or prejudice, based on actual or perceived age, disability, race, colour, nationality, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation or gender.”
Fifty-nine (13 per cent) of the 448 hate incidents recorded last year were categorised as non-crime hate-related incidents.
A Garda spokesman said the force records non-crime incidents to build up a picture of behaviour in an area. This will allow gardaí to intervene at an early stage if a cluster of incidents is reported.
If a pattern of hate incidents is observed, gardaí will be able to mount extra patrols in an area to prevent behaviour escalating to a criminal level, he said.
Hate crimes are defined as existing offences which have a hate element or motivation to them, for example an assault on a person due to their sexuality.
They are not a legally distinct type of crime but this will change when the Government’s Incitement to Hatred and Hate Crime Bill comes into effect. It will significantly increase sentences for crimes with a hate-related motive.
Public order offences were the most common type of hate crime recorded by gardaí last year, at 30 per cent (135). This was followed by minor assaults (16 per cent) and criminal damage (9 per cent).
The most common hate-related motive behind offences was race (44 per cent) followed by sexual orientation (15 per cent) and nationality (14 per cent). Other discriminatory motives recorded included age, religion and disability.
Hate crimes are reported on a “perception” basis, the Garda said. This means if the victim of the incident or someone who witnesses it perceives it to be motivated by prejudice it is recorded as such. No corroborating evidence is required, the Garda said.
“The definitions and recording practices launched in late 2020 are enabling us to gain greater insight into these discriminatory motives and respond accordingly,” Assistant Commissioner Paula Hilman said.
“Everyone has a right to live safely. Hate crimes have a huge impact on victims, because they are targeted because of who they are, and they also have a significant impact on the wider community.”
Ms Hilman urged anyone who has “experienced or observed prejudice” to come forward. “I can assure people that complaints will be dealt with thoroughly and professionally.”