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CARE’s View on the Scottish Hate Crime Bill

James Mildred

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There’s been considerable angst in Scotland over the Scottish Government’s new Hate Crime and Public Order (Scotland) Bill. Introduced in the Parliament on 23rd of April, it’s been heavily criticised by lawyers, celebrities, police officers and top judges, alongside churches and campaigners.

The Justice Committee is currently considering the legislation alongside the public responses received during a recent public consultation. CARE was one organisation who submitted a response. Here, in summary form, is what we said.

Our View On The Hate Crime Bill in 10 Points

  1. CARE for Scotland believes there is no need for the proposed Hate Crime and Public Order (Scotland) Bill. Our existing laws are already comprehensive enough to cover all criminal offenses.
  2. Criminalising people because of actions on the basis of hate is not a sign of a flourishing Scotland.
  3. The Hate Crime and Public Order (Scotland) Bill needs to clearly differentiate between opportunistic attacks on individuals and attacks of malice.
  4. The Hate Crime and Public Order Bill must define the vague concept of ‘vulnerability’ on which it’s founded.
  5. ‘Insult’ as a trigger for hate speech or crime leaves criminal law in the playground of speculation.
  6. Criminalising and censoring unpopular opinion due to ‘insult’ renders Scotland into a monochrome and fear-based culture.
  7. Hate Crime and Public Order (Scotland) Bill threatens to undermine expressions of satire and comedy which add great value to society.
  8. Scots law should clearly aim its focus on ‘threatening and abusive’ over ‘insulting and offensive’ behaviours in the proposed Hate Crime legislation.
  9. It is essential that Scotland upholds the freedom to hold and express unpopular views.
  10. Without specifically protecting the expression of religious and philosophical convictions of every sort, the Hate Crime and Public Order (Scotland) Bill undermines all its people.

Bill Needs To Be With­drawn Or Sig­ni­fic­antly Altered

Overall, we believe the legislation should be withdrawn. If the Bill does proceed, we will call on MSPs to carefully scrutinise it and make significant changes. We welcome comments by the Justice Minister that he is willing to examine parts of his own legislation, but real change will be needed to ensure the Bill does not criminalise ordinary Scots without proper cause.

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