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More support for stronger hate speech laws after Brexit vote, UEA study finds

Dr Alexander Brown from UEA'’s School of Politics, Philosophy, Language and Communication Studies. Photo: UEA

Dr Alexander Brown from UEA''s School of Politics, Philosophy, Language and Communication Studies. Photo: UEA

UEA

Public support for stronger hate speech laws has grown since the EU Referendum - according to new research from the University of East Anglia (UEA).

That was the finding of a new YouGov survey which will be revealed today (Wednesday) at a summit at the university.

The event, hosted by UEA, will see researchers and policymakers push to include disability and gender as protected characteristics under legislation banning the stirring up of hatred.

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It will also explore the rise of disablist and misogynist hate speech, including online, and examine legal measures to combat the problem. The event has been organised by Dr Alexander Brown from UEA's School of Politics, Philosophy, Language and Communication Studies.

He said: "It is currently an offence in England and Wales to use threatening words or behaviour with intent to stir up hatred against persons on grounds of race, religion or sexual orientation. Not so for gender and disability.

"Stirring up hatred offences based on race have existed in Britain since the 1960s, while religion and sexual orientation have been protected features since 2006 and 2008, respectively. Compared to racist, anti-Semitic, homophobic and Islamophobic hate speech, disablist and misogynist hate speech have received less attention from policymakers and legal experts.

"Particularly in light of multiple horrific cases that have come to light in recent years, such as Incel-inspired terrorist attacks in North America and the fatal stabbing of people with disabilities in Japan, it is clear that this kind of legislation is long overdue. The UK government has for some time been considering extending the stirring up hatred offences to cover these other characteristics, and in line with the scope of wider anti-discrimination laws and hate crime legislation. Disablist and misogynist hate speech contributes to a climate of hatred in which such acts can be triggered."

He added: "The results of a newly commissioned YouGov opinion poll on public attitudes to hate speech laws show that there has been a post-Brexit increase in public support for laws banning the stirring up of hatred. I hope that this summit will conclude with concrete recommendations for the ongoing hate crime review."

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