The problem with hate trials

Many thanks to my kind colleague Scary for the warm welcome back into the Lynch Mob‘s fold. It feels good to be back.

I wish I could say that I had some blockbuster analysis right off the bat, but it’s going to take me a little while to get into the usual rhythm. Instead, I offer up a very interesting letter by Canada’s crankiest professor, Mark Mercer,  to the Chronicle Herald, on the problem with hate crime legislation:

Judges sometimes misapply the law. It’s unfortunate, but it happens and, with luck, the mistake gets rectified down the line. One of the reasons that hate-crime legislation is so bad, though, is that it invites exactly the sorts of errors Judge MacDonald and Justice Murphy made.

It invites these errors because the point of the law isn’t to punish wrongdoers or get them off the streets, or even to deter would-be criminals. The point is to send a message to society at large, the message that racism appals the government and the court. It feels good to send this message, and that’s a temptation to send it whether racial hatred motivated the accompanying crime or not.

That’s only one of the reasons hate-crime legislation is vile, but it points us toward the deeper reason. Hate-crime laws enable governments and courts to use criminals in order to make statements — not about what we shouldn’t do, but about how we should think. Hate-crime laws are bad laws, then, because they are at odds with justice.

H/t to Blazing Cat Fur.

This is somewhat tangentially related to the Lynch Mob‘s mission, but not so much that I didn’t think Mercer’s thoughts worth highlighting.

He’s absolutely correct, of course. The purpose of hate crime legislation – in the criminal code or expressed through the bureaucratic will of the HRCs – is to send a message, not to create justice. Mark Mercer has realized this, and hopefully, more and more people will too as time and one farcical trial after another goes by. Whatever it is that we’re hoping to accomplish with hate crimes legislation, it isn’t justice.


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