DUBLIN, Ireland - The Garda Sochna Diversity and Integration Strategy, 2019 2021 was launched on Wednesday.
The three year programme has a major focus on enhancing the identification, reporting, investigation and prosecution of hate crimes.
"Our Diversity and Integration Strategy reflects An Garda Sochna's strong commitment to engage proactively and respectfully with all members of society, including those from minority groups and diverse backgrounds. Our engagement will reflect our ethical standards and commitments as contained in the Code of Ethics for An Garda Sochna," Commissioner Drew Harris said Wednesday.
"It will complement our mission of Keeping People Safe and promotes our positive obligations under Section 42 of the Irish Human Rights and Equality Act, 2014."
This Strategy contains a working hate crime definition, which recognises the existing and emerging diverse composition of communities, and is aimed at protecting minorities and diverse groups in society.
The definition of hate crime in this Strategy is: "Any criminal offence which is perceived by the victim or any other person to, in whole or in part, be motivated by hostility or prejudice, based on actual or perceived age, disability, race, colour, nationality, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation or gender".
The definition is in line with best international practice and the McPherson "perception based test".
"The working hate crime definition recognises the existing and emerging diverse composition of our communities, and aims to protect all minorities and diverse groups in society. An Garda Sochna takes hate crime seriously, and each and every hate crime reported to us will be professionally investigated," Harris said.
Minister of State David Stanton welcomed the launch of the Strategy, saying: "Actions such as this go to the heart of what is needed, concrete steps to ensure that all groups and communities in an increasingly diverse society have the confidence that they are respected, valued and safe."
"Government is committed to ensuring that Ireland is a safe and secure place for all. The Department of Justice and Equality is currently reviewing the Prohibition of Incitement to Hatred Act 1989, to determine what amendments are required in order to ensure it is effective and fit for purpose in a modern democracy. A public consultation on the Act is due to commence shortly. The Department is also undertaking research into hate crime, to learn from the experiences of other jurisdictions who have taken different legislative approaches. The results of this research will help develop new approaches to ensure hate crime is addressed effectively in Ireland," Stanton added.
"A new Anti-Racism Committee will also shortly be established, with a mandate to examine what needs to be done by public sector bodies as well as the wider community to challenge racism."
Over the three years of the Strategy, enhanced reporting, recording, investigating and prosecuting mechanisms will be put in place in respect of hate crime, as well as the introduction of a Pulse record for non-crime hate incidents. A training programme will be introduced for Garda and Garda staff to build their competency and skills to engage effectively and positively with people from diverse backgrounds.
The Strategy was developed following consultation with a wide-range of government and state bodies, academics, NGOs and Civil Society Organisations working in this area.
As part of the Strategy, a Garda National Diversity Forum with representatives of communities and stakeholders will be established to monitor and review the implementation of the Strategy on a quarterly basis.
The Strategy will also see An Garda Sochna's network of Ethnic Liaison Officers upskilled and given a wider remit to reflect Ireland's changing society by becoming Diversity Officers.
An Garda Sochna was one of the first police services in Europe to establish a dedicated unit to liaise with minority communities. The Garda Racial, Intercultural and Diversity Office was set-up in 2000.