Frederick M. Lawrence

Boston University School of Law Working Paper 00-01


For the past several years, I have been involved in a study of racially-motivated violence in the United Kingdom and its treatment under U.K. law. A major component of this study is a comparison of U.K. bias crime law with United States bias crime law. I have observed an extraordinary development in this area of the law, a development that is particularly striking because it has taken place over so short a period of time. Typically, when one does comparative work and discovered a dramatic change, there are two possible explanations: (i) something has really changed and you are on to a dynamic topic at a liminal time; or (ii) you never understood it well enough the first time. It is my hope that the former is the correct explanation although I cannot deny that I still fear the latter may be the case.

In this paper, I would like to set out the a framework for understanding bias crimes, using the American context as a point of departure. I will then sketch the background of British bias crime law, along with the case for understanding recent developments as indeed an instance of dramatic legal change. Finally, I shall offer some tentative observations as to the reasons for these changes, or at least some of the reasons for these changes, and the implications of these observations for using bias crime law as a window into a society’s self-perception as a multi-cultural society.

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Frederick M. Lawrence Contact Information
Boston University School of Law
765 Commonwealth Ave
Boston, MA 02215
(617) 353-3103

Presentation and Publication Information:

This paper was given at the University of Oregon International Human Rights Conference, February 25-27, 2000.

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