Zeb Holmes

Muslims are the main target of hate crime: Study

According to a recent study, the overwhelming majority of hate crime victims in this state are Muslim. Those of study believe that the police remain unconcerned. 

 

 

recent study by the Sydney Institute of Criminology (SIC) has found that the overwhelming majority of religiously motivated hate crime in New South Wales is perpetrated against Muslim people.

The SIC’s Professor Gail Mason made the finding by looking at data stored by the NSW Police Force for crimes of bias reported from July 2013 to June 2016—which was the first time such data was kept.

She found that an average of one crime of bias per day is reported in our state, the most common being assault, property damage and criminal threats and intimidation.

Over the period, crimes motivated by racial/ethnic and religious bias comprised 81% of all crimes of bias reported to police. The next most common were crimes based on sexual orientation or gender identity, which made up 14%.

The most commonly-reported victim race/ethnicity were overwhelmingly against “Muslims”, comprising 73%, followed by “Jews”, 14%.

 

Racial discrimination laws

On June 21 2018, the NSW Parliament passed the Crimes Amendment (Publicly Threatening and Inciting Violence) Bill 2018.

The Bill inserted section 93Z into the Crimes Act 1900 (NSW) which prescribes a maximum penalty of three years in prison and/or a fine of $11,000 for publicly threatening or inciting violence on the grounds of race, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity or intersex or HIV/AIDS status.

The offence extends to all forms of public publications, including social media posts.

NSW Attorney-General Mark Speakman issued a press release at the time to the effect that the law seeks to strike a balance between enabling free speech and discouraging the incitement of violence.

“These laws will help protect individuals and groups from being targeted by cowards who seek to cause physical harm to innocent people,” he stated.

“We’re not saying people can’t have opinions or express their views, but if they cross the line into threatening and inciting violence they will not go unpunished.”

Despite apparent moves forward in data gathering and criminalisation, a recent report titled “Bias Crime Policing: The Graveyard Shift” has found that the NSW Police Bias Crime Unit did virtually nothing between the years 2009 and 2013.

The unit is tasked with analysing reports, maintaining data and providing intelligence to police local area commands to ensure they are aware of the nature and extent of hate crimes in their area, and that officers are appropriately trained.

In 2015, then assistant police commissioner, Nick Kaldas, took steps to ensure the Bias Crime Unit comprised four specialist staff members. But by 2017, resources were withdrawn which reduced the number of officers to just one, making it impossible to fulfil the unit’s stated aims.

According to Professor Mason, “What this does is it sends a very strong message to communities that the NSW Police Force doesn’t take this crime seriously, there was a view that the bias crime initiatives were seen as paying lip service to appease minority groups rather than it being a dedicated and strong commitment to the issue.”

 

Police unconcerned with hate crime

One of the police officers interviewed by Professor Mason stated, “The biggest issue with NSW Police is we’re run by old white men,” adding, “I think the direction in this organisation has always been to shut the minorities up.”

Perhaps prophetically, the officer expressed the view that nothing would change unless and until a major crime was committed by a white supremacist.

The Professor found the officer’s views to be common among interviewees, who described the Bias Crime Unit as “tokenistic”, an “unwanted secret”, “the graveyard shift” and a “political inconvenience”.

It is hoped that if nothing else, the atrocity that recently occurred in Christchurch will result in police having to recognise the dangers of extremism and take appropriate action when and where it arises.

 

Zeb Holmes

Zeb Holmes is a journalist and paralegal working on claims for institutional abuse. He has a passion for social justice and criminal law reform, and is a member of the content team at Sydney Criminal Lawyers.

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