A question of faith? Prosecuting religiously aggravated offences in England and Wales

Iganski, Paul and Sweiry, Abe (2015) A question of faith? Prosecuting religiously aggravated offences in England and Wales. In: Symposium on anti-Muslim Hate Crime, 2015-06-162015-06-16, Centre of Islamic Studies. (Unpublished)

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Abstract

Given impetus by the backlash of incidents of violence and abuse against Muslims in the wake of the 9/11 terror attacks, provisions for religiously aggravated offences established by the 2001 Anti-terrorism, Crime and Security Act were aimed to provide protections against attacks on religious identity for believers of all religions. Attacks on faith or religious belief per se, or lack of religious belief, were to be managed by provisions against incitement to religious hatred enacted six years later in 2007. Yet a major and persistent concern in media commentary on religiously aggravated offences has been on violations of religion supposedly prosecuted as religiously aggravated crime. Alarm bells have been sounded about alleged infringements of rights to freedom of expression in such cases. Yet there has to date been no published systematic analysis to shed light on the question of whether indeed legitimate criticism of religion has been targeted in prosecutions for religiously aggravated offences. Hence, this is the core question that we address in this paper. We present an analysis of a complete year’s sample of prosecutions for religiously aggravated offences in England and Wales from the financial year 2012-13, enabled by unique access we attained to the Crown Prosecution Service Case Management System. We focus on the conduct and discourse of offenders, and in some cases offenders’ discursive acts, distinctively unfolding the foreground and everyday contexts of religiously aggravated offending. This permits an analysis of whether prosecutions have indeed stepped beyond the boundaries of the law by attacking lawful criticism of religion. Informed by our analysis we consider where the boundaries of the criminal law might be drawn between prosecuting against unlawful violations of religious identity and lawful violations of religious beliefs. The research for the paper is a core project in the ERSC Centre for Corpus Approaches to Social Science at Lancaster University.

Item Type:
Contribution to Conference (Paper)
Journal or Publication Title:
Symposium on anti-Muslim Hate Crime
ID Code:
75745
Deposited By:
Deposited On:
28 Sep 2015 15:42
Refereed?:
No
Published?:
Unpublished
Last Modified:
09 Apr 2020 23:26