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Lawyers Point Out Flaws in Hate Crime Bill

Religious Liberty
5 November 2020
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The Justice Committee at the Scottish Parliament held its second oral evidence session yesterday (Tuesday 3 November) on the Hate Crime Bill.

Senior representatives from the Faulty of Advocates, the Law Society of Scotland, the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service, Police Scotland and the Scottish Police Federation gave evidence to MSPs.

Issues still remain with the legislation

Legal experts warned the committee that issues still remain with the bill. Particular concerns were expressed about plans to make it an offence to stir up hatred by ‘insulting’ somebody on racial grounds.

Robby Dunlop, dean of the Faculty of Advocates said: “The problem I have with it is it’s very difficult to see what it adds because if you look at the 20-year history, I’m certainly unable to find any prosecution which even suggested let along ultimately turned on insulting as being the crucial provision.

“It is very difficult to see a situation where words are used that are not threatening, that are not abusive and yet still might be worthy of criminalisation in reference to the insulting provisions.”

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More Clar­ity Needed

When asked by MSPs if the term ‘abusive’ can be described as an objective test, the Faculty and Law Society said more clarity from the legislation is required.

Police representatives echoed these concerns and stressed that further clarification is always welcome.

Unduly Oppress­ive

Both lawyers and police officers criticised the new police powers in the draft legislation with Michael Clancy, director of law reform at the Law Society of Scotland saying they were ‘unduly oppressive’. Mr Dunlop said he wondered if it would be appropriate to leave that section out.

Criticism was also expressed over the provisions on the public performance of plays, with the Law Society and the Faculty saying these are undemocratic.

The Hate Crime and Public Order (Scotland) Act came under fire last week during an evidence session as MSPs on the committee wanted to know why there’s no dwelling defence in the legislation. This offers protections for people for comments made in their own homes. Without it, as many MSPs said, you could end up committing an offence from your living room or kitchen.

Pro­tect Free Speech in Scotland

CARE has launched a new campaign to help protect free speech across Scotland. Use our campaign page to contact your MSPs and speak out about the importance of free speech.

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