Can you think of a serious crime which does not involve hate or, at the very least, contempt? You must hate people to murder them, rape them, rob them, beat them up, post excrement through their letterbox or even defraud them. This intense hostility is a good reason for punishing such actions. The concept of ‘hate crime’ ignores this. It fastens on particular hatreds, making it worse for, say, a black person to call a white person a ‘white bastard’ than for him to call a black person a ‘f***ing bastard’ (or vice versa). Why? Racism, religious enmity, anti-gay feeling etc are sources and triggers of hate, so they are often important factors in a crime, but once they are specially categorised they skew the system to downplay all other forms of hate. People have come to realise this, so now they want to invent other categories of hate crime — misandry, ageism, hostility to sensitive groups such as goths, and so on. This process is a dead end because hate crime is, by law, self-defining. Ever since the Macpherson report on the Stephen Lawrence affair, incidents of hate crime are automatically logged if a ‘victim’, ‘or anyone else’, perceives them to be such and reports them. Thus hate crime figures constantly rise (94,098 last year, apparently, ‘up 17 per cent’), without the law being able to establish the evidence — let alone secure a conviction — in all but a tiny minority of cases.
It would not be a better society, for example, if class prejudice became a hate crime and we had to lock up John le Carré. He has just declared that Etonians are a ‘curse on the earth’, but I think it would be prudent to let it pass. He taught there once upon a time, after all, and so his views deserve respect. Others have held such opinions. In his gripping new biography of Churchill, Andrew Roberts draws attention to a speech in 1940. ‘Hitler,’ said Churchill, ‘in one of his recent discourses declared that the fight was between those who have been through the Adolf Hitler schools and those who have been at Eton.’ Churchill was speaking at his old school, so he continued: ‘Hitler has forgotten Harrow, and he has overlooked the vast majority of the youth of this country who have never had the chance of attending such schools, but who have by their skill and prowess won the admiration of the whole world.’
This is an extract from Charles Moore’s Spectator Notes, which appears in this week’s magazine