The Shotgun Blog
Sunday, September 28, 2008
How to Handle Hate Crimes
Frankly, I hate the phrase "hate crime." I don't like the idea that we ought to distinguish crimes from one another based, simply, upon the identity of the victim or, as a class, based upon the motivation for the crime. Assaulting someone because you don't like their face seem to me to be morally equivalent to attacking them because you don't like their race.
Where motivations ought to come in, I would say, is in considering punishments. That's one of the real tragedy of our justice system - is that judges don't have the freedom to impose creative punishments.
For example, in the case of this latest gay bashing in Vancouver, I think that one can make an ideal case for corporal punishment.
Let's face it - prisons don't really work. People don't learn anything because they spend a brief amount of time locked up. The way to deter this from happening in the future is to sentence the perpetrator to a public flogging on Davie Street.
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"I don't like the idea that we ought to distinguish crimes from one another ... based upon the motivation for the crime."
Insofar as mens rea separates actions that are crimes from ones that are not, most crimes are ones where the motivation determines whether or not it was a crime at all. Furthermore, motivation already can distinguish crimes in some cases. The difference between murder and reckless endangerment can be based solely on motive.
"Where motivations ought to come in, I would say, is in considering punishments."
People who advocate classifying some crimes as hate crimes are not saying that something that would otherwise not be a crime at all should be criminal because of a hateful motive, but that some things that already are crimes should be more severely punished because of certain hateful motives. Assault is already a crime, but some think that when it is a gay bashing it should be called a "hate crime" and thus more severely punished. So talk about "hate crimes" is pretty much always talk about severity of the offence and severity of punishment. Which means you sound like you really do support "hate crime" laws.
You really ought to do a little basic reasearch before making posts on subjects you obviously know so little about. On that point....
"For example, in the case of this latest gay bashing in Vancouver, I think that one can make an ideal case for corporal punishment."
Why is it that you think a spanking would be an appropriate punishement? Maybe thinking about gayness makes you think of spanking? Heh heh....
Posted by: Fact Check | 2008-09-28 11:26:21 PM
A technical point, FC: Mens rea means 'intent' not 'motive'. The difference between reckless endangerment and murder, for example, is that in the later but not the former case the accused is alleged to have intended to kill. In the latter case, the accused is alleged to have intended to act in such a way that someone else's death could be a reasonably predictable result.
Adam is correct to suggest that motive is only ever an element of the crime that the Crown has to prove in "hate crimes." My objection to hate crimes is that if crimes of violence were properly punished in general, there would be no need to specifically identify a subset of violent crimes that merit harsher punishment. Alternatively, particularly nasty (or altruistic -- see Robert Latimer) motives could figure into sentencing rather than being made an element of the crime.
Posted by: Grant Brown | 2008-09-28 11:49:36 PM
Hate crimes are not just crimes against someone who happens to have a certain protected identity, Adam. There is in fact a big difference between being attacked for your face, or being attacked for your race. Hate crimes are acts of terrorism which put fear into everyone who shares that identity. It is not just those two men in Vancouver who where affected by this. Now, every gay couple walking down Davie St. has to think twice before they hold hands or kiss, or otherwise appear to be gay. Were cross burnings just fires? No, they sent a message to blacks and supporters of human rights that they were being targeted, and should leave, or live in fear. If someone attacks a guy because of his face, which happens to look like mine, that is not going to worry me. And if a gay guy gets beat up during an argument over a traffic accident, his gayness is probably not relevant. But this attack in Vancouver was more heinous than a random attack on two people. It was an act of terrorism.
Posted by: Jonathan Turner | 2008-09-29 2:11:30 AM
A technical point: "mens rea" means "guilty mind", not "intent". So knowing that your actions are likely to cause harm is not to intend harm, but still satisfies "mens rea" for the crime of reckless endangerment.
Another technical point: while intent (what result you were aiming at) and motive (why you were aiming at that motive) are separable things, it is typically quite difficult to prove intent without establishing motive. So establishing a motive is typically important to proving a crime took place or what crime took place.
A substantive point: Despite your little attemts to quibble, it is still true that people who advocate "hate crime" laws are not talking about some acts that were not otherwise crimes and making them crimes. They are talking about taking some things that are already crimes (like assault, uttering threats, and murder) and punishing them more severely. This is true whether "hate crimes" are listed as separate crimes or whether designating a crime as a "hare crime" is specifically a penalty enhancement provision. If Adam had understood this very basic fact about "hate crimes" he would have known that he actually supports the idea he claims to oppose.
So your hair splitting aside, Adam still does not know what the hell he is talking about.
Posted by: Fact Check | 2008-09-29 7:03:19 AM
1. Actually, reckless endangerment does not have to result in someone getting killed. A more appropriate comparison would be murder and manslaughter, or criminally negligent homicide. Moreover, the victim’s race is irrelevant; the perpetrator’s intent was to push the victim’s face in, end of story. His punishment should be determined solely to the egregiousness of the offence—viciousness factor, damage done, and so on.
2. We know exactly what a hate crime is, FC, and that’s why we know they’re bogus. A crime is not more serious because you pick this victim or that one. People who pick on minorities often have little against them personally; they simply walk it to whomever they feel won’t be as vigorously defended or argued for. The “vulnerable,” to use today’s parlance. They’ll go after anyone they can get away with; they just think they can get away with minorities.
3., 4. Your last two points were an exercise in petulance, for which perhaps you should be the one getting the leather belt across the mouth.
Posted by: Shane Matthews | 2008-09-29 7:16:03 AM
Not quite, Jonathan. Cross burnings were part of an extensive campaign of terror waged by a highly organized and pervasive institution whose dark deeds included lynchings and bombings. They can be considered legitimate terrorism. This was the act of a pack of sadistic and drunken dickheads who picked on the first “odd man out” they came across. If it hadn’t been a gay man, it would have been the guy with the funny shoes. Trust me—these are just overgrown schoolyard bullies who grew up this way because no one ever bothered to break their arms.
A broken jaw is a serious and debilitating injury that may lead to lifelong complications. I'm with Adam--strip these scumbags naked, hang them up by the heels in the city square, and start carving parts off.
Posted by: Shane Matthews | 2008-09-29 7:22:24 AM
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