Sunday, 19 February 2012

Hate crime or thought crime

I was listening to a piece on the Sunday programme this morning about hate crime.  There were some horrendous stories about the kinds of vicious things people say and do to others.

Nonetheless, I am profoundly uneasy at the notion of hate crime.  Why would it have been worse of John Terry to have called another footballer a black buffoon (or whatever he is alleged to have said) than, say, a ginger buffoon or a bald buffoon?

Why is racially aggravated assault worse than assault for other reasons?

It seems to me that we have entered dangerous territory here.  The State has a reasonable and legitimate interest in circumscribing my behaviour when it infringes the liberties of others.  It has no reasonable or legitimate interest in dictating how I am to think: for that is the path to totalitarianism.

A friend of mine is a police officer.  Apparently all around the back offices of the Police Station are posters proclaiming that if a person claims an offence to have been racially motivated, then it was racially motivated and must be recorded as such.

So once again, an extraordinary degree of subjectivity is introduced into our legal and criminal processes. I could claim, for example, that when Mrs T. beaned me with a frying pan for forgetting Valentine's day once again (a purely fictitious example, you understand) that it was because in her heart of hearts she'd always wanted to marry an Asian, and it was because I'm white (as she is) that she hit me.  The police would be obliged to record that as an allegation of racially aggravated assault, and treat it accordingly.

Let me be quite clear: I am not saying it is ok for footballers, or anyone else, to abuse people because of their race, skin colour etc.  But then I don't think it is any better for them to abuse people for any other reason.  I believe the law should stick to what actually happened, not to what attitudes others believe may sit behind it - which are in any case usually the fruit of ignorance.


Webmaster Gareth said...

I agree. I have been called a taig, a sheep sh####r, and much else besides.

Abuse is abuse, iolence is violence, murder is murder.

If I am hacked to pieces in the street by a gang - does it matter if they do it because I am Welsh, white, Catholic or because I support a certain football team, or no reason at all?

The worrying aspect behind all this is the 'politicisation' of crime.

Murder is murder, assault is assault.

Shouldn't we just treat all crimes as wicked and deserving due punishment?

We cannot have a sliding scale of sentences for the same crimes.

Ttony said...

" Why would it have been worse of John Terry to have called another footballer a black buffoon (or whatever he is alleged to have said) than, say, a ginger buffoon or a bald buffoon?"

I suppose because we don't live in a society where anybody actually thinks that ginger or bald people are inferior to those with a full head of hair of a different colour.

The problem is that there are those in the UK who believe that being black is a sign of inferiority: why should Anton Ferdinand have to spend time wondering whether the comment might be simply descriptive when he knows that when he usually hears himself described by a white man as black it is being said to belittle him?

Ben Trovato said...


I recognise the situation you describe, but do not see how the approach I am questioning actually helps. Will Anton Ferdinand be any the wiser about John Terry's views as a result of all the shenanigans? I doubt it. And Terry has ben judged guilty till proven innocent at the court of press and establishment opinion. He may or may not be a lout - or a racist bigot - for all I know, but he seems to have received rough justice on this occasion - precisely because of the 'special' nature of the offence he is alleged to have committed.