Working Group to consider standalone offence on misogynistic harassment.
New legislation to give greater protection for victims of hate crime has been introduced to Parliament.
The Hate Crime Bill seeks to modernise, consolidate and extend existing hate crime law ensuring it is fit for the 21st Century. Alongside the legislation being introduced, a working group will take forward work on a standalone offence of misogynistic harassment.
The draft legislation updates the list of characteristics protected under hate crime legislation and proposes the addition of age to this list – where there is a statutory aggravation for offences motivated by prejudice.
If passed by Parliament, the Bill would also provide for new ‘stirring up’ of hatred offences that would apply to all characteristics listed in the Bill: age, disability, race, religion, sexual orientation, transgender identity and variations in sex characteristics. Currently these offences only apply to stirring up racial hatred.
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.”
While Lord Bracadale, in his review of hate crime legislation, recommended that gender should be added to hate crime law, leading women’s organisations were strongly opposed to this approach. They proposed a standalone offence on misogynistic harassment be developed, which the Scottish Government is committed to in principle. A working group will be established to take this forward and consider how the criminal justice system deals with misogyny, including whether there are gaps in the law that could be filled with a specific offence on misogynistic harassment.
The group will also consider whether a statutory aggravation and/or stirring up of hatred offences in relation to the characteristic of sex should be included within hate crime law. The Bill includes a power to allow the characteristic of sex to be added by regulations, at a future date, to the lists of characteristics to which the new hate crime legislation will apply.
Mr Yousaf continued:
“I am also clear that we must do more to tackle misogyny and the Scottish Government is committed in principle to developing a standalone offence which would criminalise serious misogynistic harassment. We are establishing a working group to take this forward and further details of this will be announced in due course.”
A statutory aggravation, in the hate crime context, is where the offender demonstrated, or was motivated by, malice and ill-will based on a listed characteristic (or characteristics). If the offender is found guilty, the court must take the aggravation into account when determining the sentence.
‘Stirring up’ of hatred is behaviour that encourages others to hate a particular group.
The ongoing focus of the Scottish Government is on responding to the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak. However, the remit and membership of the Working Group on misogynistic harassment will be announced at the earliest date possible and their work will begin shortly after.