Bi-partisan support in parliament for hate crime law to protect people with a disability and elderly

Julia Farrugia Portelli pilots changes that will make it a criminal act to propagate hate against people because of their disability and old age • Opposition to support Bill

Inclusion Minister Julia Farrugia Portelli
Inclusion Minister Julia Farrugia Portelli

Propagating hate against people because of their disability or old age will become a criminal offence punishable with a prison sentence, Julia Farrugia Portelli said.

The Inclusion Minister presented the amendments to the Criminal Code in parliament on Tuesday when she opened the Second Reading of the Bill.

Nationalist Party Deputy Leader David Agius said the Opposition will be supporting the changes in their entirety.

Farrugia Portelli said the changes will offer greater protection for persons with a disability and older persons, giving the police the necessary tools to take action.

“This parliament must send out a message of zero tolerance to hatred,” she said, adding it was a shortcoming of legislators that the current law on hate crimes did not cover old people and those with a disability.

“We boast of being an inclusive country but we have always stopped short of implementing the necessary laws to offer protection from hate to these people… today, Malta must send out a strong sign that it wants to stand up for these people with a disability and old people,” she said.

The changes will amend the provisions in the law covering hate crimes to include disability and old age as protected characteristics. Jail terms for those found guilty range between six months and two years, which could increase depending on whether there are aggravating circumstances such as physical harm.

Cabinet had approved the changes last July and the First Reading was presented in parliament just before the summer recess.

The changes respond to numerous calls that have been made in the past by the Commission for Disabled Persons to make hate speech against disabled people a criminal act.

Opposition MP David Agius said the amendments were welcome and insisted the country had to do much more to create environments where people with a disability could contribute fully.

He also called for a law to offer protection for old people from physical, sexual and psychological abuse.