Hate crime legislation in Scotland will be strengthened early this year, after the Scottish government backed a proposal for a Sentencing of Offences Aggravated by Prejudice (Scotland) Bill.
The legislation will be taken forward as a handout Member’s Bill this year, announced Scotland’s justice secretary, Kenny MacAskill, last week.
The proposal was originally lodged last November by Green MSP Patrick Harvie, after the Scottish Executive’s Working Group on Hate Crime put forward 14 recommendations in 2004 to change the criminal judicial system.
Harvie said: “For too long our justice system has been oblivious to the motivation behind hate crimes against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered Scots, as well as Scots with disabilities.”
This Bill aims to extend statutory aggravations to tackle hate crimes “motivated by malice and ill will” against people with disabilities and those who are victimised because of their sexual orientation or transgender identity.
“Our clear aim is to prevent and deter crimes. But where crime does happen it will not be tolerated,” said MacAskill.
Morag Alexander, Scotland’s commissioner for the Equality and Human Rights Commission, and Tim Hopkins, policy and legislation worker for the campaign group, Equality Network, both welcomed the proposal.
Alexander said: “If we are to create a Scotland which is ambitious, fair and confident then it is only right that disabled, lesbian, gay and transgender people are able to go about their daily lives as equal citizens.”
Under the Bill’s provision, the police, courts and prosecutors will have statutory powers to monitor and tackle hate crime in Scotland.