Do you find certain terms confusing? Not to worry: we provide detailed explanations of the most difficult terms below.
What is a person's motive for committing a crime? This is the question that a judge will seek to answer in ruling on a case. If a reprehensible motive or hateful motive is involved, the perpetrator can be given a more severe penalty. In such cases, it is no longer referred to as merely a crime, but as a hate crime.
What is a reprehensible or hateful motive?
- A man beats up another man in a parking lot.
In this example, the perpetrator may have different reasons or motives for attacking the other man. For example, he may have been defending another person, he may have a history of disputes with the victim and loses his temper, he intends to steal the victim's money, …
So, when is it a case of a reprehensible motive or a hateful motive? If the perpetrator intentionally chooses the victim because he belongs to a certain group.
- In a parking lot, a man beats up another man for being gay.
In this example, the perpetrator is motivated by his hatred, contempt or hostility towards a certain group. In this example, the group is: homosexuals.
That group must be one of the groups that are protected by law. The antidiscrimination laws specifically refer to ‘protected criteria’. For example, people with a certain skin colour, religion or beliefs, disability, age, sexual orientation, gender, etc.
As its name suggests, a reprehensible motive concerns the motivation or what drives the perpetrator. It is sufficient for just one of the motives to be hatred, contempt or hostility towards a person. The judge will determine the motives based on the perpetrator’s behaviour, what he has said or written, …
For the judge, it is not important whether the victim effectively belongs to the group that the perpetrator intended to harm. What matters is the perpetrator’s motivation.
- In a parking lot, a man beats up another man because he thinks that he is gay (even if he isn't).
In this example, too, there is a reprehensible motive, and it can therefore be considered a hate crime.
But the inverse is also true: just because a victim belongs to a certain group does not automatically mean that there is a reprehensible motive involved.
- In a parking lot, a man beats up another man, who happens to be gay. He is trying to steal the man's wallet.
In this example, the perpetrator assaults the other man because he wants to rob him, not because he is gay. It is therefore not a case of a reprehensible motive.
Why is the reprehensible motive important?
Can it be demonstrated that the perpetrator acted on the basis of a reprehensible motive? Then the judge can or must impose a harsher penalty.
This has been enshrined in the Criminal Code.
After all, crimes with a reprehensible motive are not only traumatic for the victim and the bystanders, but they also create a sense of fear and anxiety within the group to which the victim belongs. The perpetrator sends the message that certain people are not welcome in society, in his eyes.
In a parking lot, a man beats up another man for being gay. Other couples therefore no longer dare to walk hand-in-hand in the neighbourhood.
These days, perpetrators can have their penalties increased if they acted out of a reprehensible motive. But the possibility to increase the severity of the penalty is not available for all crimes. Unia would therefore like to see this penalty increase further expanded to cover a number of other crimes. More information on this is available in our evaluation of the antidiscrimination laws.