A Fairer Scotland for Disabled People: progress report 2019

This is a report of progress made by the Scottish Government since A Fairer Scotland for Disabled People was published in December 2016.

Ambition 4: Protected rights

The fourth ambition of the action plan is to ensure that Scotland's justice system is equipped to meet the needs of disabled people in a fair and inclusive way. Disabled people are confident that their rights will be protected and they will receive fair treatment at all times.

In the Scotland we want:

  • Disabled people to be treated as equal citizens within all elements of the justice and tribunal system, with full access to the physical environment, advocacy and support, information and advice, and communication support.

Hate Crime Reporting

Everyone should be entitled to freedom from crime, intolerance and violence, and prejudicial treatment has no place in Scottish society. With the exception of 2016-17, the number of charges brought in relation to offences aggravated by prejudice related to disability has increased since the introduction of this aggravation in 2010. In 2018-19, 289 charges of this kind were reported, in a context where these crimes are thought to be under reported.[53]

The Cabinet Secretary for Communities and Local Government chairs an Action Group with key stakeholders to take forward an ambitious programme of work[54] to tackle hate crime and build community cohesion. A key area of this work is to address barriers to reporting, including through Third Party Reporting Centres. It is only through reporting that issues within an geographic location or against a particular protected group can be identified.

To support this work, the Scottish Government, in partnership with stakeholders, developed public awareness campaigns around the impacts of hate crime, to raise awareness and to encourage victims and witnesses to report it. The Scottish Government are committed to working across government in order to build a fairer Scotland where there is simply no place for hatred and prejudice and where everyone feels connected, has a sense of belonging and feels valued.

An Independent review of hate crime legislation in Scotland was published in 2018, but did not recommend changes in relation to disability hate crime reporting.[55]

Following Lord Bracadale's review, the Scottish Government launched a 14 week consultation, 'One Scotland: Hate Has No Home Here', which sought views on what should be included in the new hate crime bill. An analysis of the responses to the consultation were published on 27 June 2019[56]. The Scottish Government will consider these responses in the process of framing a new hate crime bill to consolidate and update existing hate crime legislation. As noted in the last chapter, a common framework and charter for responding to hate crimes on public transport will be piloted in 2019 and 2020. Information on the charter, along with information about the piloting of the charter on Stagecoach East, can be found here.

Improving Access to the Criminal Justice System

More broadly, the Scottish Government is concerned with ensuring that disabled people do not face barriers in terms of their interaction with the criminal justice system. In June 2018, the Criminal Justice Disability Project – with participation from Police Scotland, the Scottish Government and the Law Society of Scotland, among others – published its final report, summarising progress on 76 recommendations made in 2013 to improve services in the criminal justice service for disabled people.[57]

Work in this area involved engagement with organisations representing disabled people, and a national Disability Advisory Group was created. A full list of the groups involved is published in the annex of the report which is linked below.

Of these recommendations, 42 were primarily concerned with improving access to the reporting of crime and ensuring that disability hate crimes were reported as such. This has resulted in a range of developments, including publicity campaigns, improvements to training and the accessibility of reporting centres and information. The additional 34 recommendations consider a wide range of potential barriers to disabled people, including improved practice and shared learning, advocacy and support and improving transparency and accountability.

In addition, the Scottish Strategy for Autism, 2018-21 committed to working with the Scottish Offenders with Learning Disabilities Network to improve autism awareness across the Criminal Justice System.[58]

Legal Aid

It is critical to ensure that disabled people are able to access legal aid, and any barriers to access to justice are removed. The 2018 Independent Review into legal aid - 'Rethinking Legal Aid' – identified several barriers to accessing legal aid facing disabled people.[59] Recommendations from the report included a suggestion that the standard fee for advice and assistance should take into account the greater time it takes solicitors to engage with disabled clients and explore potential solutions with them.

The Scottish Government did not support establishing a new public body for handling legal aid requirements, but did support the goal of greater flexibility and user-focus in the development of legal aid services. Future legislation in this area will engage with organisations representing the protected characteristics in its development.

Additional Developments:

  • The Scottish Strategy for Autism, 2018-21, committed to working with the Scottish Offenders with Learning Disabilities Network to improve autism awareness across the Criminal Justice System.[60]
  • In March 2019, the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) launched an inquiry into whether people with mental health conditions, cognitive impairments and conditions including autism are experiencing discrimination in the criminal justice system.[61]
  • In March 2019, NHS Health Scotland hosted an event with the Scottish Government, COSLA and partners to tackle gender-based violence towards women with learning difficulties.[62]

Further Reading

  • Criminal Justice Disability Project (2018) Final Report. Available here.
  • Scottish Government (2018) Independent review of hate crime legislation in Scotland: final report. Available here.


Email: nicole.ronald@gov.scot

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