|Previous Section||Back to Table of Contents||Lords Hansard Home Page|
Lord Monson: My Lords, all the amendments in the groupnone of which was discussed in Committee, even obliquely, as far as I am awarecan be criticised on a number of points. For example, the very idea of a "hate crime" is ridiculous and misleading. Hate crime is an American concept, which would have been laughed out of court on this side of the Atlantic 20, or even 10, years ago.
I say "misleading" because if a man attacks and perhaps kills his business partner, who he finds has embezzled every penny from the partnership leaving the victim totally destitute, it is not counted as a hate crime. Similarly, if a man kills his wife's lover, it is not
The conferral of group rights, which would be the effect of the amendments standing in the names of my noble friend Lord Colville and the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, is another North American innovation, although Canadian in this instance rather than American. As I understand it, in Canada, groups are deemed to have the same rights as individuals, if not greater rights; but at least my noble friend Lord Colville and the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, are being consistent in trying to protect all identifiable groups, unlike the Government who are being extremely selective.
It seems that the noble Lords' amendments are designed to protect not only those with unusual sexual habits and the disabled, but also all other visible minorities. For example, fox-hunters, motorcyclists, joggers, non-disabled elderly, bald men, grammar school pupils and rough sleepers, to name but a few, sometimes attract hostility, as well as those often attacked in pubs and barrack rooms by virtue of speaking with the wrong accent in the wrong place. Those who speak with Scottish or Welsh accents are already protected; not so those who speak with Geordie or West Country accents in the south-east of England.
In contrast, government Amendment No. 201A is capriciously selective, as is Amendment No. 201B, and would result in even greater anomalies. If a cyclist pedalling furiously along a road or a pavement ran into a pedestrianas happens all too often nowadaysand shouted, "You fool; are you deaf or something?", he would be caught whether or not the pedestrian was deaf. But if he shouted, "You silly old git" or "You silly old cow", he would be quite safe.
All the amendments are designed to provide extra protection for some. In law, we are all entitled to protection from the state, but these provide extra protection for those with minority sexual orientations, including paedophiles. Clearly, paedophilia is sexual orientation; there is no doubt about that. Above average protection would also be given to those people with some of the more bizarre orientations discussed in this Chamber just a few months ago in the course of the Sexual Offences Bill. I make no comment. I merely draw that point to your Lordships' attention.
When all is said and done, what difference does it all make to the victim? If a middle-aged, female cloakroom attendant, who happens to be black, is punched hard in the face by a drunken, teenage, female pop singermost of us will have read about this recent casethe victim is hurt just as much and the cheekbones bruised for just as long whatever the motive or mixture of motives of she who threw the punch. I realise that in raising this latter point I can be accused of trying to shut the stable door after some of
Baroness Anelay of St Johns: My Lords, it might be more helpful if I intervened now. I have a great deal of sympathy with the objectives of the noble Viscount, Lord Colville of Culross. Sadly, he may be disappointed to learn that I shall not support the amendment if he divides on it, for reasons that I shall give. But I do have sympathy with the objectives.
I have sympathy, too, with the fact that today we are having what is really a Committee stage debate. As the noble Viscount said when introducing the amendment, that is no fault of his. It was merely an accident of fate, for very good reasons, that it was not possible for these amendments to be moved in Committee. Some noble Lords might say that it was open to the noble Viscount or other noble Lords in Committee to seize the opportunity and to move someone else's amendment. But we would all accept that at the time that would have been bad form. Therefore, being good form, the noble Viscount did not pursue that.
Perhaps I may refer briefly to the amendments. The noble Viscount is right that it is not satisfactory to have a piecemeal approach to legislation in this respectI would say in any respectbut certainly with regard to these definitions and protections. It is the right time to have an overall look at the codification and to have a proper approach.
My noble friend Lord Waddington pointed out some of the difficulties that arise in competing legislation. But we must be grateful for small mercies, one of which is that because we have had time between Committee and Report, the Government have been able to reflect. They have tabled today an amendment that I strongly support, which is against the background that I would prefer the more far-reaching review that the noble Viscount called for and which I hope that the Minister may be able to direct us will happen in future.
It is difficult at this stage when the Minister's amendment is grouped with others. My noble friend Lady Carnegy is right to ask for some latitude. If Back-Benchers wish to ask the Minister questions, perhaps they may do so succinctly and within the rules of Report after the Minister has moved the amendment. I guarantee that I shall not do so.
Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton: My Lords, the Minister will speak to the government amendments. She may not move them because only the first amendment in the group may be moved. She will speak to them when she replies and has taken careful note that, within the rules, questions and factual information could be addressed to the Minister when she is replying to the whole debate.
Lord Thomas of Gresford: My Lords, perhaps I may have a little interlude before the noble Baroness does that. I see that she is advised by the Table that that is the proper approach, as the noble Lord has said.
With the greatest respect, I take issue with the noble Lord, Lord Monson, when he says that there is no such thing as "hate crime". As I see it, from experience, in our society there are young men who go around in groups and packs, tanked up with alcohol and perhaps drugs, to seek a target. That target may be someone who is different on account of their race, religion, disability or sexual orientation. I do not believe that those categories should be closed because those young men will single someone out and attack him simply because he is different .
What binds together all these forms of hate crime is that the person who is attacked is someone who is completely inoffensive and has done nothing to the group that is seeking to work out its aggression on that particular individual.
Perhaps I may cite an example from my home town. Noble Lords may recall that during the summer there was a suggestion that race riots had broken out in Wrexham. I found that ludicrous, having been brought up within a matter of yards of the place where the alleged race riot took place. Certainly the disturbance on the first day involved a group of asylum seekers who attacked a local public house. However, on day two a large disturbance broke out because police in riot gear were called in from Liverpool. That action brought into Wrexham every troublemaker from the surrounding villages and some 250 gathered to attack the police; they had their excuse and that is how they worked off their aggression.
I do not make that comment as a result of any personal insight into the particular affair, but Judge Roger Dutton, when passing sentence on many of those people only a week ago, made the point: this was not a race riot or a riot against the asylum seekers, and we do not regard ourselves as a race apart from Liverpudlians. Rather, this was an occasion when young people vented their aggression on the police, and that is what hate crime is all about. It is the act of attacking a person simply because he is different.
I think that the approach taken to this by the noble Viscount, Lord Colville, and the approach adopted on these Benches is absolutely right. If people in an identifiable category are attacked in circumstances of
|Next Section||Back to Table of Contents||Lords Hansard Home Page|