Obviously, but the distinction between meaning to kill vs. not meaning to kill, and the distinction between premeditated vs. accidental murder, are very different from making a legal distinction based on why the killer wanted to kill the victim.
Motive shouldn't enter into it.
No offense intended, but these are contradictory positions (saying motive shouldn't enter the legal system, then implying that yes it needs to be there).
And there are very evident legal distinctions based on why a killer wanted to kill a victim, it's called evidence and proving "beyond a reasonable doubt" that the accused had motive. However, in the case of Hate Crimes, it is very difficult to prove that a crime was racially, religiously, or sexist(ly?) motivated. If it can be proven, though, beyond a reasonable doubt, personally, the accused ought to serve more time, especially since many laws covering violent crimes leave way too much room for judicial discretion. Case in point, only a month or two ago, a local judge (can't recall where, just caught the story briefly on CNN) sentenced a child rapist to one or two years in prison, with a chance to reduce that time for good behavior - currently the victim is appealing the sentence to a higher court.
The way it currently is, it does border on 'thought crime' because some groups enjoy additional protections, and while this might work on the face to protect an established minority, it doesn't take into account changing demographics - majority becomes a plurality, plurality becomes a minority, etc.
While this is definitely true, say for the Hispanic community in the U.S., the metamorphosis of a minority group into a majority group doesn't deal with the underlying racism/sexism/whatnot that the laws were created to deal with. Yes, this underlying assumption then means legislating morality (which still isn't related to thoughtcrime
), but then again, we legislate lots of morality based on general beliefs that underlie human relations - we as a society consider theft, murder, and cannibalism to be immoral, for instance, things which virtually every human society has considered immoral (although cannibalism, supposedly, existed in some historic societies up through the early-20th c., but sociologists and anthropologists are still debating its actual existance).
Side note, the closest I can recall Orwell coming to define thoughtcrime
is on page 19 of the Signet Classics edition of 1984
(early 21st c. ed., though 1950 copyright), where he states: "He had committed - would still have committed, even if he had never set pen to paper - the essential crime that contained all others in itself. Thoughtcrime, they called it" by thinking (and writing) "Down with Big Brother," which was illegal. The key element of thoughtcrime
is most emphatically not motive, but thinking of committing or mentally committing a crime. Thus, arresting someone for murdering a Jew and charging him/her with a Hate Crime which was actually committed is not thoughtcrime
. Arresting and charging someone with thinking
about murdering a person (anyone), when no physical crime was actually committed, would be.