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Can sexism or misogyny be a hate crime?

Two years ago, Nottinghamshire Police decided to label misogyny and offences targeting women as hate crime or hate incidents.

Two local universities recently undertook a report entitled “The Misogyny Hate Crime Evaluation”.  This report recommends rolling out the policy nationally.

The full report can be found here.

Misogyny hate crime is defined as “incidents against women that are motivated by the attitude of men towards women and includes behaviour targeted at women by men simply because they are women.”

hate crime

This definition can include behaviour that is not criminal.  These are recorded as hate incidents rather than hate crime, so something such as wolf-whistling may be recorded as a hate incident.

The policy does not criminalise that behaviour.  It may, however, result in a discussion, for example, with building site managers if their workers are behaving that way.

Misogyny hate crime on the continent

In Belgium, however, such behaviour can be criminal.  A man has been convicted under a new law which does criminalise sexism. He was stopped driving a car for breaking the highway code and told the female police officer to do a job “adapted to women”. He was fined €3,000 for insulting the officer because of her gender.

The offence in Belgium is expressing contempt toward a person because of their sexuality or treating them as inferior due to their sexuality.   If the behaviour complained of entails a serious attack on their dignity, it is punishable by up to 12 months in prison.

In France, they are preparing to create an offence of street harassment that is “sexist and sexual outrage”.  Meanwhile, in Stockholm, sexist advertising has been banned.  Our London Mayor, Sadiq Khan, has attempted to ban body shaming adverts.

What will happen in the UK?

Chief constables from the United Kingdom met in July 2018 to discuss the issue and whether the policy in Nottinghamshire would be rolled out nationwide.

The issue has also prompted discussion in Parliament over the autumn.

These developments in the UK and other countries demonstrates how the law is continually evolving. It may be that such behaviour will be a statutory aggravating feature of an offence when sentencing or disposal is dealt with, or it may become an offence on its own.

How can we help?

 Allegations that involve elements of sexism or misogyny are always likely to be treated more seriously than cases where it is not a feature.

As a result, if you are arrested or know that the police wish to speak to you about any offence then make sure you insist on your right to free and independent legal advice.

The advantages of such early legal advice can be found here.

If you have already been interviewed or face court proceedings we can still make a real difference to the outcome of your case.  Legal aid may well be available to fund your defence at court.

 You can find your nearest office here.

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