The independent review of hate crime legislation was announced on 26 January 2017 by Annabelle Ewing, Minister for Community Safety and Legal Affairs. The review is conducted by Lord Bracadale, a retired judge of the Court of Session.
The review follows the work of the Independent Advisory Group on Hate Crime, Prejudice and Community Cohesion, chaired by Dr Duncan Morrow, which reported in September 2016. The Independent Advisory Group looked at a wide range of factors that could combat hate crime and prejudice. It concluded that the language used around hate crime was unclear and recommended that Scottish Government should explore this further. It also recommended that further consideration should be given to the scope of existing hate crime legislation and whether it should be extended. Hate crime laws have been created in a number of different pieces of legislation over the last 50 years, and this may be part of the reason why they are not now well understood.
There have been other recent developments which are also relevant to the decision
to hold the review. These include a murder case with a religious motivation which did
not fall within the current law on hate crime and concerns expressed in the Scottish
Parliament and elsewhere about how the Offensive Behaviour at Football and Threatening Communications (Scotland) Act 2012 is working in practice.
Lord Bracadale is now seeking views through an extensive consultation exercise. The intention is to explore what type of conduct the criminal law should identify as hate crime and whether the current set of offences adequately covers such conduct.
Lord Bracadale has produced three versions of the consultation paper:
• this full version, aimed mainly at a technical, legal audience;
• a non-technical guide, which is intended for the general reader with no specialist legal knowledge;
• an ‘easyread’ guide using simple language and pictures.
The questions in the consultation paper are deliberately open and we have not set out provisional proposals at this stage. We would welcome input from anyone with an interest in hate crime legislation. We recognise that this is a wide topic and that many people will have a specific interest in one or more elements of this. You are welcome to provide answers to any or all questions.