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Government Announces Review of Scottish Hate Crime Laws

The Scottish Government has announced an independent review of hate crime legislation to ensure it continues to be fit for purpose in the 21st century.

The review is being chaired by the Right Honourable Lord Bracadale and began on 30th January 2017. It is expected to last for up to 12 months, after which Lord Bracadale will present his recommendations for the Scottish Government to consider.

Remit of Review

The specific remit of the review is to consider whether existing laws represent the most effective approach for the justice system to deal with criminal conduct motivated by hatred, malice, ill-will or prejudice.

In particular, Lord Bracadale will consider and provide recommendations on:

  • Whether the current mix of statutory aggravations, common law powers and specific hate crime offences is the most appropriate criminal law approach to take.
  • Whether the scope of existing laws should be adjusted, including whether the religious statutory aggravation should be adjusted to reflect further aspects of religiously motivated offending.
  • Whether new categories of hate crime should be created for characteristics such as age and gender, which are not currently covered.
  • Whether existing legislation can be simplified, rationalised and harmonised in any way, such as through the introduction of a single consolidated hate crime act.
  • How any identified gaps, anomalies and inconsistencies can be addressed in a new legislative framework, ensuring this interacts effectively with other legislation guaranteeing human rights and equality.

Review of Legislation

The review will consider the various hate crime offences currently covered by a range of different legislative acts:

  • Criminal Law (Consolidation) (Scotland) Act 1995
  • Criminal Justice (Scotland) Act 2003
  • Offences (Aggravation by Prejudice) (Scotland) Act 2009
  • Offensive Behaviour at Football and Threatening Communications (Scotland) Act 2012

“Racism, intolerance and prejudice of all kinds are a constant threat to society, and while Scotland is an open and inclusive nation, we are not immune from that threat,” said Minister for Community Safety and Legal Affairs Annabelle Ewing, as she announced the review in Parliament.

“While we already have robust and comprehensive laws in place, we need to make sure that legislation is up-to-date and able to counter all forms of hate crime,” she added. “That is why I have commissioned an independent review, to be chaired by Lord Bracadale.”

Reaction to the Announcement

The review has been welcomed by the Law Society of Scotland

“Tackling hate crimes taking place in communities across Scotland is essential and it is important to ensure that there is clarity in our law to be able to identify these types of crimes,” said Ian Cruickshank, convener of the Law Society of Scotland Criminal Law Committee. “We welcome the Scottish Government‘s decision to launch an independent review to evaluate how well the existing law is working and where it might be improved.”

“There is a significant amount of legislation which has been introduced over the years by both the Scottish and UK Parliaments with the aim of preventing and eradicating hate crime and prejudice,” he added. “We think there would be potential benefits in bringing this together within a single piece of legislation which would provide clarity and assist with easy identification of offences and the protections afforded to victims of these types of crime.”

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