Speaking at the launch of a pilot initiative to report hate incidents, Alliance South Belfast representative, Allan Leonard, has encouraged victims as well as witnesses to come forward. He has also called for an official to be appointed to monitor the implementation of hate crime legislation in Northern Ireland.
Project RIOH (Recording Incidents of Hate), allows victims to report an incident, confidentially, to the likes of community centres and voluntary organisations.
Allan Leonard, currently the Party’s General Secretary, said: “Too often victims of hate incidents are too afraid to come forward to report what they have experienced. Even when they do go to the PSNI, they feel let down by the poor clear-up rate.
“Those who witness hate incidents can also report them. This is important because the onus for removing the scourge of hatred in our society must not lie with the victims, but with wider society. We cannot stand idly by when we see someone being attacked or affronted, especially on the basis of one’s race, sexuality, religion, politics or disability.
“Alliance has worked hard to ensure that the harsher penalties for hate crimes were introduced to Northern Ireland. We have been forthright in our vision of a fair society, committed to human rights and equality of citizenship. But these must be applied properly and consistently.
“For these reasons and more, I am also calling for the establishment of proper monitoring of hate crime legislation in Northern Ireland. There is no point in having the laws in the books if they are not going to be applied when they should be.
“An important objective of the pilot scheme is develop better services for victims and prevent further incidents of hate crime, a benefit to us all. Every person, whether a victim or not, can play their part.”
Project RIOH is a multi-agency initiative led by the Community Safety Unit of the Northern Ireland Office. The pilot will run in South Belfast until December 2006. Website: www.reportinghate.org, tel: (028) 9082 8568, email: email@example.com