Victoria Police have announced they will push for tougher sentencing on hate crimes, including those motivated by gender and sexuality, following the release of new figures on prejudice-motivated crime in the state.
Last year Victoria Police recorded 306 prejudice-motivated crimes, including 132 assaults, according to figures published by News Limited.
The statement comes two years after Victoria Police introduced its Prejudice Motivated Crime Strategy to reduce this kind of crime and encourage reporting.
Victorian Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby convenor Anna Brown told the Star Observer that the new statistics highlighted the need to tackle crime against LGBTI people specifically.
“We have laws to protect against racial and religious hate, but the scope of these laws should be expanded to include LGBTI people,” she said.
Brown also urged the Victorian government to make public the findings of a 2010 review into identity-motivated hate crime in Victoria, conducted by retired Supreme Court judge Justice Geoffrey Eames.
“The Victorian government has a responsibility to the public to release the report of Geoffrey Eames, completed nearly three years ago, so we can have a public conversation about the systemic reform required to keep people safe and free from homophobic harassment,” Brown said.
A Freedom of Information request for the report by the Star Observer has been denied by the Department of Justice.
Greg Adkins from LGBTI organisation Anti-Violence Project said the report is vital to changing the way hate crimes are dealt with in Victoria
“We really need to find out what [Eames] identified as deficiencies, and with that knowledge, make changes,” Adkins said.
Adkins expressed cynicism at the timing of Victoria Police’s announcement this week, suggesting the call for tougher sentencing will deflect from almost three years of silence on the Eames report by the Victorian government.
Adkins also said the number of prejudice-motivated crimes reported by Victoria Police probably represents only a small proportion of hate crimes committed.
The Star Observer contacted Victoria Police for specific statistics on gender and sexuality-related crime, but they were unavailable for comment.