Independent Review of Scottish Hate Crime Laws

Date: 7th February 2017
Category: Non-discrimination

Scottish Government has announced an independent review of Scotland's hate crime laws.

The review presents an opportunity to address gaps identified in Together's 2016 State of Children's Rights report for children and young people.

Scotland's hate crime laws are to be reviewed by Lord Bracadale, one of Scotland's most senior judges. The review started on 30 January 2017 and is expected to take a year. It will examine laws in the Criminal Law (Consolidation) (Scotland) Act 1995, Criminal Justice (Scotland) Act 2003, Offences (Aggravation by Prejudice) (Scotland) Act 2009 and Offensive Behaviour at Football and Threatening Communications (Scotland) Act 2012.

"Hate crime legislation has developed intermittently over many years and it is important to consider whether it currently provides appropriate, effective and consistent protection for Scottish communities," Lord Bracadale said. He is keen to meet community representatives and those involved in applying the law to ensure those with a direct interest were heard. There will also be a public consultation.

Minister for Community Safety and Legal Affairs Annabelle Ewing said:

"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.

"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. That is why I have commissioned an independent review, to be chaired by Lord Bracadale."

The review has been welcomed by the Law Society of Scotland. Ian Cruickshank, convener of the Law Society of Scotland Criminal Law Committee, said:

"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.

"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.

"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."

In line with Together's recommendations, there is a need to recognise the under-reporting of hate crime by children and young people, develop a clearer definition of hate crime, better monitoring of and response to online hate crime as well as improving data collection in all settings.