Gardaí lack training to deal with racially motivated crimes – report

Less than a third of people who report violent racist crimes seek help of gardaí

A total of 82 reports of racist crime in Ireland were made to an anti-racism body in 2018. Photograph: Gareth Chaney Collins

A total of 82 reports of racist crime in Ireland were made to an anti-racism body in 2018. Photograph: Gareth Chaney Collins

 

Less than a third of people who report violent racist crimes are turning to gardaí for help, while authorities are struggling to respond to reports of hate crime because of insufficient resources, training and expertise, a European-wide report has said.

The European Network Against Racism (ENAR) study found the Irish criminal justice system was struggling to respond to racially motivated crimes because of a lack of formal legislation and clear definitions around hate crime.

The report, which includes data on racist crimes in 24 EU countries between 2014-2018, said racially motivated crimes are “on the rise” with anti-immigrant political rhetoric and terrorist acts creating a spike in numbers. Institutional racism within criminal justice systems across the EU is impacting on how racist crimes are recorded, investigated and prosecuted, it added.

A total of 82 reports of racist crime were made to ENAR Ireland in 2018 including 36 assaults; 26 threats to kill or harm; eight incidents of criminal damage; two cases of racial profiling by gardaí; two cases of physical assault by a garda with racist language and one bombing threat on a hostel hosting a meeting of asylum seekers. While there was a drop on the 140 incidences reported in 2017, the percentage of actual crime remained the same while the brutality of assaults became more severe, according to ENAR.

Racial stereotyping

The Irish branch of the anti-racism network has repeatedly underlined that most people do not report incidences of hate crime to gardaí because of a belief their claims will not be taken seriously or investigated.

In its review of racial stereotypes and beliefs, the report found some gardaí “refused to believe reports of racially motivated crime”, particularly among Roma or black people. Racial stereotyping and the association of certain minority groups with criminality, violence, dishonesty and/or being seen as a security threat was found to be “pervasive in policing at all levels”.

Unlike in Ireland, most member states have hate-crime legislation in place. However, these laws are not enforced because of a “deeply rooted institutional racism” within law-enforcement authorities, according to the report.

Racial bias often disappears when police are investigating a crime as they find it more straightforward to “investigate crimes, such as violation of public order or crimes against property, than uncovering the evidence of the bias motivation”. The lack of clarity around what hate crimes with racial bias entail, combined with a lack of training, limited capacity and limited racial/ethnic diversity within the criminal justice system also hinders the prosecution and sentencing of these cases, it wrote.

ENAR Europe chair Karen Taylor called on governments to review their practices and policies around the investigating of racist crime while Shane O’Curry, director of ENAR Ireland, underlined the need for greater leadership to ensure minorities are no longer left “unprotected, abandoned and undermined by a system that should instead protect us all equally”.