A troubling incident at a grocery store in London has sparked a conversation about the difference between hate crimes, crimes motivated by hate, and hate incidents.
A viral video of the altercation shows a man in a black hoodie trying to leave the Sobey’s on Adelaide Street on Tuesday night, and a man wearing a red t-shirt forcibly blocking his path while calling the other individual an “illegal alien.”
Speaking with Global News Radio 980 CFPL’s The Craig Needles’ Show, London police chief John Pare said the man in the black hoodie doesn’t want police to pursue charges.
“It’s quite clear from the investigation thus far that there’s a criminal element to this that’s motivated by hate,” explained Pare, adding they’d respect the victim’s request.
The video is just 30 seconds long and doesn’t capture the argument police have said happened between the two customers inside the store before the camera started rolling.
Police have said they’re investigating the incident as an assault. It’s also being reviewed by the police service’s Hate Crime unit.
“There are specific hate crimes listed in the criminal code,” Pare said. Those offences are genocide, public incitement of hatred, or promotion of hatred at identifiable groups, he explained.
“Then there are crimes that are motivated by hate, and usually those are offences against a person. For example an assault, criminal harassment, or death threats.”
When crimes are motivated by hate, Pare explained the hatred will be taken into account during the judicial process.
“When you charge an individual with assault, and there’s underlying hate-motivation for that offence, the issue is addressed in sentencing. The judge can impose a sentencing based on that being an aggravating factor, that it was motivated by hate, bias, or prejudice.”
Hate incidents, on the other hand, don’t meet the threshold for criminal charges, though Pare says they are equally as troubling and wrong.
“These account for circumstances where there is no criminal offence. It could be an example of a derogatory statement and nothing further about a person’s race or religion.”
Pare says the London Police Service does track hate incidents.
After the altercation, police said both men left the store peacefully and no one was hurt.
Police gave the man in the red t-shirt a warning for assault and didn’t lay charges against him.
Pare applauded the store’s handling of the situation but is also reminding the public not to get involved in things that could escalate because it could lead to harm or injury.