Shaping public discourse and policy on hate crime

Mark Walters has led on a number of large empirical socio-legal research studies on law and criminal justice reform for hate crime.

These include:

Hate Crime and the Legal Process. The workability of justice measures for hate crime pivots on the enforceability of hate crime laws. In 2015, an 18-month funded study of hate crime laws in five European jurisdictions was funded under the European Commission, Director-Generate Justice, Action Grants scheme. Walters’ led on the English and Welsh study which examined the application of criminal laws and sentencing provisions for hate crime in England and Wales in order to capture best practices and identify barriers to the implementation of these laws. Alongside Wiedlitzka (research fellow) and Owusu-Bempah (co-I), the University of Sussex produced a free access 210-page research report in 2017 that was based on a mixed methodology, including doctrinal analysis of over 100 reported cases, quantitative analyses of secondary and primary crime data, and 71 qualitative interviews with all Crown Prosecution Service leads for hate crime, as well as Crown Court Judges as supported by the Judicial Office. The study outlined four options for law reform aimed at improving the effective application of hate crime legislation; including amendments that would ensure that there is parity in the level of protection given to the five characteristics identified by separate statutes.

Hate Crime and Restorative Justice. This is the only medium-large scale study (globally) to empirically evaluate the use of restorative justice (RJ) in cases involving hate crime. RJ is a dialogical justice mechanism that focuses on bringing stakeholders of a crime (incident) together in order to repair harms and renew damaged human relations. The study used qualitative methods (interviews and observations) to identify the key process variables within restorative practice (based on 100 cases) that help to repair the harms caused by hate crime. The study outlined the steps which should be put in place when using RJ for hate crime in order to avoid re-victimisation. The book also outlines findings on the emotional and behavioural impacts of identity-based prejudice on individuals and marginalised community members in order to inform practitioners of RJ; and offers an evidence-based typology of the different types of hate incidents and underlying prejudices that frequently occur in communities.

Mark’s research has been pivotal in shaping both public discourse and public policy developments on legislating for hate crime. Walters has given interviews and taken part in discussions where he has detailed his research findings on: The One Show; The Today Programme; Live Drive (BBC Radio 5); Victoria Derbyshire Show; ITV Meridian News; and the BBC News Channel.

Collectively the studies’ empirical findings have also:

1. Provided an evidence-base to support the lobbying efforts of civil society organisations working to tackle hate crime.

2. Been presented as oral evidence in Parliament as part of a public inquiry.

3. Underpinned official recommendations for legislative reform by the Law Commission for England and Wales, and independent reviews of hate crime        legislation by Judge Marrinan in Northern Ireland and Lord Bracadale in Scotland.

4. Formed the basis for new legislation introduced to the House of Representatives in Belize.

5. Resulted in amendments to the Crown Prosecution Service’s national Hate Crime Legal Guidance, and

6. Underpinned the establishment, and content, of new restorative justice programmes run by third and public sector agencies across England.