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New hate speech crime not a priority: govt

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 15/02/2017

Police are considering the advantages of introducing a specific hate speech crime to target anecdotal reports of an increase in attacks.

Just days ago a woman was charged with assault after an attack on a Muslim woman in Huntly, near Hamilton, which was filmed and posted on social media.

Police Commissioner Mike Bush raised the idea in a select committee review of NZ Police on Wednesday.

He said communities and the Human Rights Commission had been driving calls for specific hate crime legislation, according to RNZ.

"We have crime categories at the moment that do apply but we're just working through the pros and cons of whether or not it would be the right thing to do to recommend a specific crime type," he said.

Police Minister Paula Bennett questioned whether there was an increase in attacks or whether it was the result of wider coverage, something Mr Bush also raised.

Ms Bennett said holding that sort of "absolutely abhorrent" behaviour to account on social media was "not a bad thing" but changing legislation is not a priority.

"I think that currently we are holding people to account and last week was a classic (example). I've seen the video and she was held to account for her actions and that looks like the right thing to me," she said.

"The sort of hate speech stuff can be used as an aggravating factor in sentencing and I think that's kind of good, but as far as doing something further than that, that's not one of our priorities at the moment."

Justice Minister Amy Adams, who would be responsible for introducing any new law to Parliament, says existing legislation is enough.

She said there was a very low level of hate crime behaviour in New Zealand.

"And when it does come up I haven't seen any indication that our framework fails to deal with it," she said.

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