The Law Commission is carrying out a review to consider whether there should be more 'protected characteristics' and it emerged today that the Government has asked it to consider whether not just misogyny but also hatred of men, ageism and hostility towards sub-cultures such as goths should be added.
But with hate crime rising by nearly a fifth last year across England and Wales and police budgets under increasing strain, some commissioners have expressed concerns.
Alan Billings, South Yorkshire Police and Crime Commissioner, said: “I think there is a danger of inflationary increases in what we define as hate crimes.
“I support the push to record hate crimes against women because I think those crimes reflect a culture that has been patriarchal and misogynistic for centuries and it will take a real effort to make a significant difference.
“But while hatred against men is certainly possible, it is not something on the same scale as misogyny.”
He said ageism was a “more general issue for a society that is ageing”, but acknowledged that the scandal at the Gosport War Memorial Hospital in Hampshire, where 450 lives were found to have been shortened through the prescribing of powerful painkillers, was “a worrying sign that older lives may not be valued”.
Dr Billings’ Labour colleague, Humberside Police and Crime Commissioner Keith Hunter, suggested the matter of whether crimes were motivated by prejudice should be left to judges when passing sentence.
He said: “Legislation already exists to prosecute these types of offences and it is a matter for parliament to decide if and how this is extended.
“I do think there are issues with continually adding more characteristics for specific groups though, rather than the courts having the leeway to adapt sentencing should a motive be identified that indicates a hatred for any group of people.”
However, West Yorkshire Police and Crime Commissioner Mark Burns-Williamson said he welcomed the “expansion to the debate around forms of hate crime and how it can affect people’s lives”.
He said: “Further exploring the current legislation to ensure it is more effective and representative will help to ensure a justice system that represents modern society.
"Although the current protected characteristics applied in West Yorkshire already capture a wide range of hate related offences, it is important that we continually have these conversations to ensure they remain fit for purpose.”
Hate crimes are defined as those perceived to be motivated by hostility or prejudice based on a personal characteristic.
Five strands are currently monitored nationwide: race, religion, sexual orientation, disability and transgender identity.
Hate crime in England and Wales rose by nearly a fifth last year, according to new police figures.
Home Office data shows the sharpest rise was in religious hate crime, which rose by 40 per cent in 2017/18.
This is partly because of improvements in the recording of crime but there have been spikes after events such as the Brexit referendum and the terrorist attacks last year.
The Home Office said the rises may be “due to the improvements made by the police into their identification and recording of hate crime offences and more people coming forward to report these crimes rather than a genuine increase”.