Hate Crime and Public Order (Scotland) Bill Call for Views

A person crying with another person comforting by putting their hand on the persons shoulder.

Holyrood’s Justice Committee has asked for views on The Hate Crime and Public Order (Scotland) Bill which was published on 23 April.

Hate crime is the phrase used to describe crime motivated by malice or ill will towards a social group. There are already laws in place to protect certain groups from hate crime.

People are currently protected by specific laws on the basis of: 

  • disability
  • race (and related characteristics)
  • religion
  • sexual orientation
  • transgender identity

The Bill will add age to the list of protected characteristics and allows sex to be added at a later date. The Bill also creates a new crime of stirring up hatred against any of the protected groups. 

Justice Committee convener Margaret Mitchell said: “Offences motivated by hatred or prejudice have been more harshly treated by courts for a number of years, and committee members broadly support extra protections for vulnerable groups. Certainly, aspects of this bill, such as bringing together the various different laws into one place seem eminently sensible, and a way to remove anomalies. However, this bill needs careful consideration.

While there are clear cut examples of hate crimes, there are also trickier cases. Making sure the law strikes the right balance, protecting those who fall victim to crime because of the prejudice of others while also protecting the freedom of thought and expression of all citizens, is the task that lies before us. These issues are not easy or straightforward and will outlast the current COVID-19 pandemic. It is crucial that they get the close attention and parliamentary scrutiny they deserve.

The committee wants to hear from Scottish society about whether they agree this bill is the best way to achieve those aims. Does it give the right protections, are any groups overlooked, or could there be any unintended consequences? These are the issues we want to look at in depth as we examine this new legislation.”

The call for views will run until 24 July, after which the committee will consider how to take forward its scrutiny of the bill at stage one in light of the coronavirus outbreak.

The following blog post provides further clarity on the bill.

You can respond to the call for views on the Scottish Parliament website.