Identifying and understanding barriers to investigation of gender-based hate crimes: Perspectives from law enforcement in Ireland and the United Kingdom

Published date01 November 2023
AuthorSilvia Gagliardi,Ana Valverde-Cano,Orlaith Rice
Date01 November 2023
Subject MatterArticles
Criminology & Criminal Justice
2023, Vol. 23(5) 880 –896
© The Author(s) 2022
Article reuse guidelines:
DOI: 10.1177/17488958221120885
Identifying and understanding
barriers to investigation of
gender-based hate crimes:
Perspectives from law
enforcement in Ireland
and the United Kingdom
Silvia Gagliardi
University College Dublin, Ireland
Ana Valverde-Cano
Autonomous University of Madrid, Spain
Orlaith Rice
University College Dublin, Ireland
This article is an exploratory study presenting empirically based analyses of gender-based hate
crime policy and practice from the perspectives of law enforcement officials in Ireland and England
and Wales, in the United Kingdom. Despite increasing awareness of victims of gender-based hate
crimes, robust legislation and successful investigation and prosecution of these offences remain
rare. By developing a critical, evidence-based understanding of the factors impeding effective
investigation of gender-based hate crimes, this research provides an early foundation for a more
rigorous, survivor-centred approach. This article examines and problematises concepts and
norms relating to gender-based hate crimes in law and policy. It analyses the significance of
gender in hate crime legislation and examines the relationship between gender-based violence
and gender-based hate crimes. Drawing on two case studies, this article suggests ways to refine
and redirect law enforcement efforts to improve the quality of outcomes in criminal cases and
the quality of survivors’ experiences.
Corresponding author:
Silvia Gagliardi, Sutherland School of Law, University College Dublin, Belfield Campus, Room L127, Dublin
4, D04 V1W8, Ireland.
1120885CRJ0010.1177/17488958221120885Criminology & Criminal JusticeGagliardi et al.
Gagliardi et al. 881
Bias indicators, gender-based hate crimes, hate crime legislation, intersectionality, investigation,
law enforcement
Gender-based hate crimes (GBHC) are an undefined and, at times, ambiguous category
of hate crime and an evolving area of study in criminology, criminal law, human rights,
and gender studies. This article seeks to provide clarity on their conceptualisation, iden-
tification, recording and the barriers to their successful investigation, from a law enforce-
ment perspective, in both Ireland and England and Wales, in the United Kingdom. The
research hopes to contribute to ongoing efforts to pass and amend hate crime legislation
in both jurisdictions by offering practical and actionable insights from law enforcement
officers from both Ireland and the United Kingdom (UK). Analysing two separate juris-
dictions facilitates the comparison of distinct approaches. These neighbouring jurisdic-
tions were chosen as both share a common language and legal system. Thus, developments
in one are generally of interest to stakeholders in the other. A discussion of GBHC is
timely considering what the United Nations (UN) have dubbed the ‘shadow pandemic’
of domestic violence and violence against women and girls that has worsened due to
‘lockdowns’ associated with Covid-19 (John et al., 2020; Mlambo-Ngcuka, 2020).
Furthermore, the killings of Sarah Everard (UK) and Ashling Murphy (Ireland) in 2021
and 2022, respectively, have placed the relationship between gender and victimisation to
the fore of social and political debate.
Law enforcement officials were chosen as the research sample as the impact of legis-
lation is greatly determined by who is responsible for implementing it on the ground
(Lipsky, 1980). Thus, analysing how GBHC are currently registered and investigated by
frontline officers, if at all, is useful for understanding the future potential impact of addi-
tional legislation and policy. Understanding what is meant by GBHC in law enforcement
practice will also assist in developing a survivor-centred approach.1
Ten semi-structured interviews were conducted via secure online platforms between
May and July 2021 with relevant law enforcement authorities working in the area of
hate crimes, five from Ireland and five from the UK (operating in the jurisdiction of
England and Wales). Six interviewees were male, four were female and they ranged in
age from 26 to 61 years. Eight interviewees were police officers and the remaining two
were civilians employed by their respective police force. Their experience working on
hate crimes in policy, training or investigative police work ranged between more than
1 year and over 40 years.2 Interview questions included, inter alia, how police recorded
hate incidents in the absence of specific hate crime legislation or (gender-specific) pro-
tected characteristics; how they would define a GBHC and whether they found this
category to be useful to address this type of crimes; whether and how they differentiated
between instances of GBHC and gender-based violence (GBV); which process indi-
vidual police officers attending an incident used to differentiate between a ‘traditional’
offence, such as an assault, and a hate-based motivated offence; which communities
were most targeted by GBHC; whether specialised training on hate crimes was offered
to police officers in either country; whether specialised units and/or interpreters were

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