The Law Commission has published a consultation on extending the law on hate crimes to cover sexual orientation, transgender identity and disability.
The Crime and Disorder Act 1998 allows for aggravated offences, including assault and criminal damage, if race or religion have motivated or formed part of the offence, but does not currently make similar provision relating to disability, sexual orientation or transgender identity.
The court does, however, have the power to increase a sentence under separate legislation that applies to all five of these characteristics.
The criminal law also provides protection under the Public Order Act 1986 against those who publish material that is intended or likely to stir up hatred against people on the grounds of race, or intended to do so on grounds of religion or sexual orientation.
The law does not provide the same protection where someone's conduct is intended or likely to stir up hatred on grounds of disability or transgender identity.
The consultation asks:
Do existing criminal offences provide adequate protection against the types of conduct that is occurring against members of the protected groups?
Do the courts' existing sentencing powers provide a sufficient response in all cases?
Would extending the offences create uncertainty or have unintended adverse consequences?
The law commissioner leading the project, professor David Ormerod QC, said: 'We look at options for reform that would bring consistency and recognise that the criminal law should protect people who are targeted because of their disability, transgender identity, race, religion or sexual orientation.
'We are interested in whether new aggravated offences are preferable to an enhanced sentencing regime in tackling this hostility-based criminality.'