This Government is clear that any form of hate crime or prejudice is completely unacceptable and will not be tolerated.
We are committed to building strong, resilient and supportive communities. Hate crime and prejudice threaten community cohesion, and have a corrosive impact on Scotland's minority communities as well as broader society.
What is hate crime
Hate crime can be verbal or physical and has hugely damaging effects on the victims, their families and communities, and we all must play our part to challenge it.
In Scotland, the law currently recognises hate crimes as motivated by prejudice for based on race, religion, disability, sexual orientation, transgender identity.
Tackling prejudice and building connected communities
In June 2017, we published an ambitious programme of work to tackle hate crime and build community cohesion in response to the recommendations made by the Independent Advisory Group on Hate Crime, Prejudice and Community Cohesion.
We have also established an action group, chaired by the Cabinet Secretary for Communities and Local Government with key stakeholders to take this work forward.
Letters to Scotland (2018)
In September 2018 we launched the Letters to Scotland campaign in partnership with Police Scotland. It aimed to encourage witnesses to report hate crime.
The campaign evaluation was positive and showed an increase in those who would claim to take action if they witnessed a hate crime.
Hate Has No Home in Scotland (2017)
In October 2017 we launched a six week 'Hate Has No Home in Scotland' campaign in partnership with Police Scotland. The campaign aimed to raise awareness of hate crime and encouraged both victims and witnesses to report it.
The campaign evaluation was positive and showed it had been particularly successful among those who have experienced hate crime.
Hate crime laws
Current hate crime legislation allows any existing offence to be aggravated by prejudice in respect of one or more of the protected characteristics of race, religion, disability, sexual orientation and transgender identity.
This approach does not involve the creation of new offences; rather it involves an existing offence, such as an assault, being motivated by, or demonstrating, hostility in respect of one or more protected characteristics. These provisions are known as statutory aggravations. The court is currently required to record the statutory aggravation and take it into account when determining an appropriate sentence.
This ensures that levels of hate crime are recorded and it sends a signal that society does not accept this form of conduct. It also reassures victims and their families that the fact an offence was motivated by prejudice has been formally acknowledged and taken into account in sentencing.
In Scotland, the law currently recognises hate crimes as motivated by prejudice for statutory aggravations based on:
- race: section 96 of the Crime and Disorder Act 1998
- religion: section 74 of the Criminal Justice (Scotland) Act 2003
- disability: section 1 of the Offences (Aggravation by Prejudice) (Scotland) Act 2009
- sexual orientation and transgender identity: section 2 of the Offences (Aggravation by Prejudice) (Scotland) Act 2009
Prejudice or hostility also lies at the heart of some other offences which are recognised as hate crimes. These are sometimes referred to as standalone hate crime offences and they criminalise behaviour specifically because it is motivated by racial prejudice. Currently, these standalone offences include:
- racially aggravated harassment: section 50A of the Criminal Law (Consolidation) (Scotland) Act 1995
- stirring up of racial hatred: sections 18 to 22 of the Public Order Act 1986
Hate crime legislation review
In September 2016, a review by the Independent Advisory Group on Hate Crime, Prejudice and Community Cohesion was published. It included a number of recommendations for the Scottish Government and its partners.
- the Scottish Government should consider whether the existing criminal law provides sufficient protections for those who may be at risk of hate crime
- the Scottish Government should lead discussion on the development of clearer terminology and definitions around hate crime, prejudice and community cohesion
This led to the appointment of Lord Bracadale to conduct an Independent Review of Hate Crime Legislation in Scotland.
The remit for Lord Bracadale’s review was to consider whether existing hate crime law represents the most effective approach for the justice system to deal with criminal conduct motivated by hatred, malice, ill-will or prejudice.
Lord Bracadale was asked by the Scottish Ministers to consider:
- the current law and consider how well it deals with hate crime behaviour
- whether new statutory aggravations should be created for example in relation to age and gender
- whether the religious statutory aggravation is fit for purpose or should be expanded
- whether we should make hate crime laws simpler by bringing them all together in one place
- any issues or gaps in the framework for hate crime laws and to make sure that hate crime laws are compatible with laws that protect human rights and equality
Lord Bracadale published his Independent Review of Hate Crime Legislation in Scotland on 31 May 2018.