Justice Committee calls for views on hate crime bill
The Scottish Parliament’s Justice Committee is calling for views on the Scottish Government's plans to update hate crime laws.
The Scottish Government published a new hate crime bill at the end of April, which adds age to the list of statutory aggravations, abolishes the crime of blasphemy and creates a new crime of stirring up hatred on the basis of age, disability, religion, sexual orientation and transgender identity, in addition to the existing offence of stirring up racial hatred.
MSPs want to know how people will be impacted by the new law, whether they support the proposals and whether some parts of the bill need to be changed.
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 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.