ACT leader David Seymour says any possible hate crime laws would be divisive and ineffective

David Seymour has slammed possible new hate crime legislation, saying it would create division.

Justice Minister Andrew Little said on Saturday he's fast-tracking a review of current legislation that could recommend hate crimes be made a new legal offence.

Little told RNZ hate speech is not adequately dealt with at present by the Human Rights Act and Harmful Digital Communications Act.

"The conclusion I've drawn as the minister is that the laws are inadequate and I think we need to do better," Mr Little said.

However, Seymour says that by singling out crimes against specific groups of people, the Government would risk dehumanising members of society.

"All our lives have inherent value and we each have inalienable rights and freedoms. That's why an attack on those rights and freedoms is an attack on all of us.

"But the most dangerous long-term threat is being dehumanised and made mere members of a group in the name of identity politics."

Seymour claimed hate speech legislation in the UK has been largely ineffective.

"The UK has had hate crime laws in place for a number of years, and that country has torn itself apart over Brexit, a decision driven largely by hostility towards migrants.

"Other countries have not been able to successfully legislate against prejudice. The belief that a new law will solve the problem of hostility towards particular groups of New Zealanders is misguided."

The idea of introducing laws specific to hate crimes is not a new one in New Zealand. Police Commissioner Mike Bush called on the Government to investigate the idea in February 2017 due to a rising number of incidents at the time.

"We are working with some of our partners in terms of whether or not it would be appropriate to put something forward in terms of hate crime legislation," Bush told Newshub.

However, then-Police Minister Paula Bennett said existing legislation adequately addressed hate speech.

"The sort of hate speech stuff can be used as an aggravating factor in sentencing and I think that's kind of good, but as far as doing something further than that, that's not one of our priorities at the moment."

Bennett was backed up by Mark Henaghan, dean of law at Otago University, who told The AM Show that there is already wriggle room in the law to account for the motivation behind existing crimes.

"We do have on our sentencing laws... a provision which says if a crime is motivated with regard to hostility towards a particular group... if you threaten or assault someone and it's motivated either fully or partially through hostility towards that group, that can increase your sentence."

Section 9 of the Sentencing Act includes "hostility towards a group of persons who have an enduring common characteristic such as race, colour, nationality, religion, gender identity, sexual orientation, age, or disability" as aggravating factors that could contribute towards a longer sentence.

New Zealand's acting Race Relations Commissioner Paul Hunt told The AM Show this month the solution may involve how data around hate speech is recorded by police.

"We do have to collect data around hate crimes, it's not adequately collected at the moment.

"We must recognise there are problems. In some quarters of our society there is Islamophobia, this is quite clear. In some segments of our society there is racism, this is quite clear. And the New Zealand Human Rights Commission has been saying this for some time and organising campaigns to try and counter it."

Newshub.

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