Addressing Hate Crime in New Zealand: A Separate Offence?

65 Pages Posted: 11 Dec 2019

See all articles by Rochelle Rolston

Rochelle Rolston

Victoria University of Wellington, Faculty of Law, Student/Alumni

Date Written: October 7, 2019


In light of the Christchurch terror attack, a review of New Zealand’s hate crime laws is needed. This paper considers one potential reform option - the adoption of a separate hate crime offence. Firstly, I reconsider the question of whether hate crimes are the type of conduct that should be additionally criminalised. Additional criminalisation of hate crimes is necessary for a number of reasons. Hate crimes are a violation of the victim’s human rights and cause additional harm, to the victim and wider society. The increased moral reprehensibility of hate crimes makes deterring these crimes particularly important. I then critique the sentence enhancement approach, arguing that New Zealand’s current hate crime provision is inadequate. There is uncertainty in the weight that should be attributed to hate crime, the balancing exercise undertaken in sentencing gives insufficient recognition to the hate crime element and sentencing fails to deter hate crime offending. I also consider some issues with a separate hate crime offence: the limited nature of the provisions and the potential difficulties in prosecuting. I then consider the fair labelling principle. A separate offence is important for fair labelling of hate crime. The offence would more accurately communicate the nature of the wrongdoing to the offender, the public and other criminal justice agencies. It would also give more recognition to the victim. There are a number of issues that would need to be addressed if a separate offence were enacted. In particular, which underlying offences should be covered by the separate offence, which characteristics or grounds of hostility should be protected and the requisite motive or causation that should be required. This paper considers how these issues might be addressed. I conclude that New Zealand’s current approach to hate crimes is inadequate and change is needed. More consideration of the exact scope of any changes is required, particularly to determine whether to adopt a separate hate crime offence or a hybrid system.

Keywords: Hate Crime, Criminal Law, Penal Policy, Human Rights, Equality, Discrimination

JEL Classification: K00

Suggested Citation

Rolston, Rochelle, Addressing Hate Crime in New Zealand: A Separate Offence? (October 7, 2019). Victoria University of Wellington Legal Research Paper, Student/Alumni Paper No. 45/2019, Available at SSRN: or

Rochelle Rolston (Contact Author)

Victoria University of Wellington, Faculty of Law, Student/Alumni ( email )

PO Box 600
Wellington, Victoria 6140
New Zealand

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