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by Louise Wilson
28 March 2024
Police will have to deal with hundreds of ‘malicious’ hate crime complaints, warns Douglas Ross

Douglas Ross expressed concern about the new hate crime law at FMQs | Alamy

Police will have to deal with hundreds of ‘malicious’ hate crime complaints, warns Douglas Ross

Police officers will have to deal with hundreds of “malicious” hate crime complaints when the new law comes into force, Douglas Ross has warned Humza Yousaf.

The Scottish Conservative leader raised a spurious complaint being made against one of his own MSPs, Murdo Fraser, which has been recorded by Police Scotland as non-crime hate incident.

The first minister said he had “absolute confidence” in officers’ ability to police the new law, which comes into force on Monday.

He said the Hate Crime and Public Order Act simply extended existing protections to more communities, and that non-crime incidents had been recorded for several years without problem.

The exchange took place at the last First Minister’s Questions session before spring recess.

The new act was passed by MSPs in 2021 but implementation had been delayed to ensure police officers were given sufficient training.

Concerns have repeatedly been raised about the impact of the legislation on freedom of speech, as well as the resourcing of Police Scotland to be able to enforce it.

Ross said: “Overworked, under-resourced police officers will be forced to deal with hundreds of malicious complaints. Humza Yousaf’s law could be weaponised against people with opposing views. Police investigations will tarnish the names of innocent people and could silence them. This law is overreach by the SNP.

“So how long will it take before the Hate Crime Act goes the same way as named persons, offensive behaviour at football, gender recognition reforms, and every other flawed SNP law?”

The first minister defended the Act, saying he was “proud” that it would ensure better protections for vulnerable communities.

He added: “I have absolute faith in the police’s ability to weed out vexatious complaints. They unfortunately have to deal with vexatious complaints across a whole range of legal matters and complaints that are made right across the legal landscape.”

Police Scotland is currently reviewing the recording of non-crime hate incidents. That follows updated guidance from the College of Policing for officers in England and Wales last year.

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Read the most recent article written by Louise Wilson - Humza Yousaf says he ‘values’ Bute House Agreement as Greens face rebellion.

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