Calls to legislate for aggravated offences against disabled and LGBT+ people are not part of “a woke frontier”, a Conservative MP has said, writes Will Durrant from PA. 

Elliot Colburn (Carshalton and Wallington) has tabled a Commons proposal to add three characteristics to the Crime and Disorder Act 1998 – disability, sexual orientation and transgender identity.

The law already makes an offence aggravated if it was motivated by hostility towards the victim’s race or religious group membership.

A cross-party group of MPs, including shadow justice minister Alex Cunningham, offered their backing to the amendment discussed during consideration of the Criminal Justice Bill.

Justice minister Laura Farris replied that it is the Government’s “intention to deal with this” when the Bill reaches the House of Lords.

Mr Colburn earlier said the plan would “address the disparity” between different groups which may face hate crime.

“Presently, hate crime related to race and religion carry higher maximum penalties compared to those associated with sexual orientation, transgender or perceived transgender identity, and disability, and this has established an unjust, dual-tiered justice system.”

He added: “Now, many people have asked if this is some sort of woke frontier. We know that there’s a lot of pearl clutching that happens in this place when we mention trans people.

“But I just want to reassure the House and for those concerned about such things that this is no such thing – this is no woke crusade.

“Indeed, I do not intend as part of this amendment to divert from existing legal definitions in law on LGBT+ identities, nor do I seek to redefine the barriers of aggravated offences.

“This is simply closing a loophole which the Law Commission identified, where some protected characteristics are treated differently to others in the legal system, and I can see no good reason as to why they are.”

The Law Commission published a Hate Crime Laws review in 2021.

It found “the current hierarchy of protection is unfair and sends a distinctly negative message to the victims of hate crimes on the basis of disability, sexual orientation and transgender identity”.

For Labour, Mr Cunningham also warned disabled and LGBT+ people face a “two-tier system of justice”.

He said: “This amendment would address the disparity between existing characteristics and current hate crime legislation.

“It would create a parity for maximum possible penalties for all five characteristics defined under the sentencing code. Under current hate crime legislation, hate crimes based on race and/or religion can have higher maximum penalties than their base equivalents, whereas hate crimes based on sexual orientation, transgender identity and/or disability cannot.

“This creates a two-tier system of justice.”

Ms Farris said she wanted to give two “slight qualifications” which “may explain some of the delay” in responding to the Law Commission’s report.

She said: “Many Members in this House will be aware that the Law Commission did not recommend making the protected characteristic of sex something that should be treated as a hate crime.”

Ms Farris noted there was a campaign to make misogyny a hate crime, adding: “They rejected that and that was something that did require some careful thought because not all the protected characteristics have been treated the same way.

“One other thing, of course, was the implementation of the hate crime legislation in Scotland that has been both highly contentious and, I’m afraid to say, somewhat chaotic, and of course we’d wish to avoid replicating their mistakes.

“But I do want to provide reassurance to say that it’s our intention to deal with this, subject to all the normal approvals, in the House of Lords.”