Windows into men’s souls

Dalrymple picks up a copy of the London Times newspaper and comes across an article on hatecrime, which is defined as any criminal offence which is perceived by the victim or any other person to be motivated by hostility or prejudice towards someone based on a personal characteristic. In fact, the expression of hatred—or perceived as such—now is itself a crime.

As law, Dalrymple observes,

this is perfectly Kafkaesque, in that rumour and suspicion are granted the weight of truth. There is apparently no need for an objective correlative of a person’s perception.

According to the Metropolitan Police, evidence of the hate element is not a requirement. You do not need to personally perceive the incident to be hate-related. It would be enough if another person, a witness or even a police officer thought that the incident was hate-related.

Dalrymple comments:

We have regressed to the days before Elizabeth I’s declaration that she had no desire to make windows into men’s souls. Now everyone can do so, and his attempts, however inaccurate, fantastic, or self-interested, have legal force.

The personal characteristics that are specially protected are

the usual suspects: race, religion, nationality, or sexual proclivity.

Those, says Dalrymple, who

have long denied that punishment deters crime—or indeed serves any purpose, except to take vengeance on the weak and vulnerable, driven to crime by their wretched circumstances—are generally avid for strong penalties for hatecrime. The way to make people like one another is to punish them into amiability.

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