It is a criminal act which is defined in the Sentencing Act 1991 as a crime wholly or partly motivated by prejudice or hatred towards a person or a group because of a particular characteristic, such as sexual orientation, gender identity, religion, race, sex, age, disability or homelessness.
PMC can take many forms, including harassment, verbal abuse, threats to destroy or damage property, and in more serious cases, physical violence.
It is important to note that within the Crimes Act there is no specific prejudice-motivated crime. Any crime can be a PMC.
If a crime has occurred where police, the victim or a witness identify that prejudice is a motivating factor and police are able to prove this beyond reasonable doubt to the court, the judge or magistrate can impose additional punishment in the sentencing of an offender.
On Christmas evening 2010 two gay men were holding hands, walking along Sydney Rd, Brunswick, when two men in a car subjected them to verbal abuse directed at their sexual orientation.
After both men ignored the homophobic abuse, one of the offenders threw a plastic bottle at them. A passerby became concerned, noted the registration of the offenders’ vehicle and called police. As the witness called police, one of the victims was struck in the back of the head by one of the offenders.
The two gay men where chased and assaulted by the original two offenders, with another two men joining them. Ultimately four men caused serious injuries to the victims. When police arrived, the four offenders had left.
Detectives from Brunswick Criminal Investigations Unit undertook a thorough investigation, which relied greatly on the registration number provided by the passerby.
On Monday, October 17 at Sunshine Magistrates Court, one of the very first court sentencings of PMC relating to sexuality was heard. Four offenders pled guilty to charges of intentionally causing injury, three offenders were found guilty and police prosecutions immediately requested that prejudice-motivation provisions of the
Sentencing Act be taken into account.
Based on the evidence of homophobic abuse, the magistrate found beyond reasonable doubt that one offender acted because of a prejudice against the homosexuality of the victims, with an additional sentence being placed on top.
Many crimes motivated by prejudice go underreported. Shame, denial, mistrust or fear of police, and a belief that nothing will happen are some of the reasons victims do not report PMC to police.
I would like to highlight and encourage everyone who is a witness, victim, or if you know someone who has been or is subjected to PMC to report the matter to police immediately. If you feel uncomfortable, contact a GLLO.
Reporting prejudice-motivated crime will help us identify offenders and contribute towards a safer community for everyone.
By Acting Sergeant Electra Wellens, Manager, Gay and Lesbian Advisory Unit.
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.police.vic.gov.au