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Racial attacks statistics to be kept for first time by gardai

RACE motivated crime statistics are to be compiled by the gardai for the first time before the end of this year.

The gardai will be able to put together statistics on racial attacks and are preparing to include a new category for racist incidents on the high-tech Garda computer system "Pulse".

A special working group on racism, headed up by Chief Superintendent Catherine Clancy, will recommend a workable definition of race motivated crime to Commissioner Pat Byrne in the near future and the category will be included once he approves the definition.

It is understood that the working group drew on international police definitions of what constitutes racial crime. They will rely heavily on the definition drawn up by British police which says that if the victim, witness or anybody linked to the crime perceives the incident to be racist, it will be treated as such until such time as proved otherwise.

A Garda spokesman said the working group's work was nearing completion and would be sent to the commissioner for approval in the near future.

Currently there are no statistics available on racist attacks and incidents in Ireland because the gardai have no legal definition of what constitutes a "racially motivated attack", even though anecdotal evidence suggests racially-motivated incidents are widespread.

Philip Watt, director of the National Consultative Committee on Racism and Interculturalism (NCCRI), who was consulted by the working group, said they would very much welcome the Garda initiative to collate data on race motivated attacks and incidents.

Mr Watt said the NCCRI had set up a system whereby anyone who suffered racist abuse could report their experience to them.

He said they had received 28 complaints through the system which was only set up on July 1.

The Irish Council for Civil Liberties said anecdotal evidence suggested that there is significant incidence of racially motivated crime in Ireland.

"It is regretable that such statistics are not being collated by the gardai. Experience elsewhere would suggest that such ignorance is far from bliss for racial minorities. We would do well to address this information gap immediately," said ICCL director Donncha O'Connell.

According to the Irish section of Amnesty, people called Amnesty to report incidents of racist abuse on a regular basis.

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Spokesman Brian Dooley said a record should also be kept of all incidents of racist taunts and slurs.

He said while many incidents would not be serious enough to result in charges, it would be helpful to know how widespread racism is in this country.

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