Labour’s Anneliese Dodds has pledged to introduce tougher sentences for those who commit hate crimes against people on the basis of their sexuality, gender identity, or disability.
Accusing the Conservatives of inaction on the issue, the party said it would reform existing laws to make the system more equitable – ensuring all hate crimes are “treated as an aggregated offence”.
Under existing legislation courts can use enhanced sentencing in cases of hate crimes, which demonstrate hostility based on one of five “protected characteristics”, including race, religion, disability, sexual orientation or transgender identity.
However, in some cases where a crime is found to have been motivated by racial or religious hostility, they can be “upgraded” to aggravated offences – carrying tougher sentences – alongside cases of assault, harassment and criminal damage.
In 2014 the Law Commission recommended that aggravated offences be extended to disability, sexual orientation and transgender identity, and last year proposed a consultation into reforming hate crimes.
It recognised that “groups who are protected to a lesser degree – notably LGBT+ and disabled people – argue that this is wrong in principle, and has a damaging effect in practice”.
Labour said it would change the law to ensure that “everyone who falls victim to hate crime is treated equally under the law, and that the perpetrators of anti-LGBT+ and disability hate crime can no longer dodge longer sentences”.
Marking Transgender Day of Remembrance, the party’s chair and shadow equalities minister Ms Dodds said: “It is totally unacceptable that police recorded hate crimes against LGBT+ people have doubled in the last five years.
“All victims of hate crime have a right to expect equal treatment under the law, but that’s not the case today,” she added.
“Labour will fix this injustice by bringing in tougher, fairer hate crime laws so that every category of hate crime is treated as an aggravated offence – and those who commit hate crimes against LGBT+ and disabled people can no longer get away with softer sentences.
“The Conservatives could have done this years ago, but they’ve sat on their hands as usual. There is little wonder that former members of their now defunct LGBT+ advisory panel have accused ministers of creating a hostile environment for LGBT+ people.”
Ms Dodds also reiterated the party’s policy on reforming the Gender Recognition Act to enable self-identification – a reform dropped by the Conservatives last year – and called for an “outright” ban on so-called conversion therapies.