‘Milestone’ hate crime bill introduced to the Scottish Parliament
A “milestone” bill that updates and extends existing hate crime law has been introduced to the Scottish Parliament.
The Hate Crime and Public Order Bill creates new offences of stirring up hatred that would apply to age, disability, race, religion, sexual orientation, transgender identity and variations in sex characteristics, in addition to the current offence of stirring up racial hatred.
The bill also adds age to the list of statutory aggravations which the court must take into account in sentencing if there is a hate-based element to a crime – with the possibility that sex can also be added later.
Currently there are five statutory aggravations: disability, race, religion, sexual orientation and transgender identity.
In addition, the bill abolishes the crime of blasphemy, an offence that has not been prosecuted in Scotland for 175 years, but which remains on the statute book.
Alongside the Hate Crime Bill, a working group will be set up to consider creating a standalone offence of misogynistic harassment.
The Scottish Government said that the remit and membership of the working group will be announced “at the earliest date possible”, with work to begin shortly after.
Justice Secretary Humza Yousaf said: “This new hate crime bill is an important milestone.
“By creating robust laws for the justice system, parliament will send a strong message to victims, perpetrators, communities and to wider society that offences motivated by prejudice will be treated seriously and will not be tolerated.
“Stirring up of hatred can contribute to a social atmosphere in which discrimination is accepted as normal.
“Our legislation, if passed, would offer greater protection for those who experience this kind of behaviour.
“We all have a responsibility to challenge prejudice in order to ensure Scotland is the inclusive and respectful society we want it to be.”