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
What Hate Crime Law Looks Like

What Hate Crime Law Looks Like

Hate crime is the term used to describe behaviour which is both criminal and rooted in prejudice.

The core method of prosecuting hate crimes in Scotland involves applying a statutory aggravation to an underlying criminal act (baseline offence).

A statutory aggravation recognises a motive or demonstration of hostility directed at a target based on their protected characteristic.

Some Examples Of Behaviour That Could Be Taken To Court As A Hate Crime

  • Abusive shouting by a person who is annoyed that their neighbour creates a noise when putting their bins out early in the morning. In the heat of the moment the offender makes comments about their neighbour’s sexuality and says he hopes “people like you die of Aids”
  • Tipping a disabled person out of their wheelchair in the street
  • A murder committed because of someone’s skin colour
  • Vandalism/graffiti on a mosque which says “terrorists go home”

The Laws That Can Be Used To Address Hate Crime

Examples Of An Underlying Criminal Act Include:

  • Common law offences: For example - breach of the peace, assault, theft, murder, vandalism, uttering threats
  • Threatening or abusive behaviour: section 38 of the Criminal Justice and Licensing (Scotland) Act 2010
  • Sending grossly offensive, indecent, obscene or menacing messages via a public electronic communications network: section 127 of the Communications Act 2003

Under Current Scots Law A Statutory Aggravation May Be Applied In Respect Of These Protected Characteristics:

  • Race: Crime and Disorder Act 1998
  • Religion: Criminal Justice (Scotland) Act 2003
  • Sexual orientation or transgender identity: Offences (Aggravation by Prejudice) (Scotland) Act 2009
  • Disabled people: Offences (Aggravation by Prejudice) (Scotland) Act 2009

Prejudice Or Hostility Also Lies At The Heart Of Some Other Offences Which Are Recognised As Hate Crime. These Are Sometimes Referred To As “Standalone” Offences Because A Statutory Aggravation Does Not Need To Be Applied:

  • Stirring up racial hatred: Public Order Act 1986
  • Racially aggravated harassment: Section 50A of the Criminal Law (Consolidation) (Scotland) Act 1995