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Talking about hate

My name is Piotr Godzisz, and I'm a hate crime researcher, reading for a PhD at University College London

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  • What is the definition of hate crime, when is the red line crossed as far as hate crime is concerned?

    Our current generation express their displeasures towards certain leaders or policies through the use of the graffiti, when is a graffiti said to be offensive?

    Piotr Godzisz's avatar image.

    Hi Jasmine,

    Thank you for the question.

    The answer is quite easy, actually. According to the most common international definition, a hate crime is any criminal offence (e.g. physical assault, manslaughter, rape, theft, vandalism, property damage, arson etc.) that is committed with a bias motive. The bias motivation means that the offender selected the victim because of his/her specific characteristic - e.g. his/her ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity, disability etc. The characteristic is typically something inherent and unchangeable.

    So - to answer your question about the red line - it is crossed once someone breaks the law (commits a criminal offence), and does it because of someone's protected characteristic.

    As for the graffiti: legality of each graffiti depends on whether or not you have a consent from the surface owner to paint on it. If you don't - the graffiti is illegal. Whether or not you have the consent, the the content of your graffiti can be illegal, depending on the legislation, if it spreads hate. In many European countries, graffiti that offends sectors of society or incites hatred/violence based on a group membership is illegal.

    As for political leaders - typically, whatever you say can be protected by freedom of speech (unless you're advocating a crime), but there may be restrictions depending on the local legislation. The fact, however, that you're exercising your right to express your views does not mean that you can vandalize someone's property!

    I hope that I've answered your question. If you'd like more information, please contact me @pgodzisz or consult http://www.osce.org/odihr/39821?download=true.