Publication - Independent report

Independent review of hate crime legislation in Scotland: summary

Published: 31 May 2018
Justice Directorate
Part of:
Equality and rights, Law and order

Summary document to accompany Lord Bracadale's final report.

Independent review of hate crime legislation in Scotland: summary


Lord Bracadale received 457 responses to his consultation paper.

Lord Bracadale held 17 events from Shetland to Dumfries to encourage debate.

A number of key themes emerged from the consultation exercise that Lord Bracadale carried out:

There were differing views about whether there should be hate crime laws.

“It is important that hate crime is identified and dealt with at a higher level so that those who use hate as their reason to offend and break the law know they risk a stronger punishment.”

“Hate crime laws create a situation where some potential victims are more protected than others and this is wrong.”

There should be more user-friendly language and awareness raising about what hate crime is.

“Current legislation appears difficult to enforce due to the complexity of the definition and terminology and this may prevent many victims from receiving access to justice.“

All respondents strongly supported protecting the right to free speech.

“There has been an upsurge of attempts to use hate crime as an excuse to silence those who disagree with personal belief. To disagree is not to hate, and should not be made a crime.”

Widespread support for legislation to cover gender-related hate crime particularly to deal with online and physical hate crimes towards women.

“Crimes motivated by hatred of women are well documented and including this as an offence would be a progressive step in tackling misogyny.”

There were lots of views about how to address problems with online hate crimes

“This should be tackled through prosecution of individuals and regulation of social media companies.”

“There needs to be greater awareness of the issue of online hate…this is an issue of education and awareness raising rather than reform of legislation.”

Agreement that there should be appropriate support for victims of hate crime

“We believe there is a need for greater understanding of the routine, everyday nature of many experiences of hate victimisation and the impact this ‘drip-drip’ prejudice has on victims.”

“There is a need to build trust among hate crime victims, organisations out with the criminal justice system, police and the Procurator Fiscal service.”

Consolidation (bringing all pieces of legislation together) could make hate crime laws easier to understand.

“This would send a clear message regarding what society finds as intolerable attitudes and beliefs, provide consistency across the legislation, and offer clarity to communities who may struggle to understand the current piecemeal approach to hate crime legislation.”

As a result of everything he has heard Lord Bracadale has found that:

  • There can be confusion about what a hate crime is and how it is dealt with.
  • The language used in the law can be difficult to understand.
  • It can be unclear what sort of behaviour makes something a hate crime and why that’s appropriate.
  • Not everyone agrees that there should be hate crime laws: it can be unclear what the benefits are in singling out this type of crime.