News In Focus
Lord Bracadale to lead review of hate crime legislation
A senior judge has been appointed by the Scottish Government to lead a review of the various statutes covering hate crime offences in Scotland.
Lord Bracadale, a member of the Court of Session and High Court bench since 2003, will carry out a review over the next 12 months of whether current laws are appropriate and consistent, whether hate crime legislation needs simplified, rationalised or harmonised, and whether new categories of hate crime for characteristics not currently legislated for, such as age and gender, need to be created.
At least four pieces of legislation currently provide for hate crime offences, some of them controversially.
The move by ministers is seen as a way to defuse controversy over the Offensive Behaviour at Football etc Act of 2012, the attempt to repeal which through a member's bill in the Scottish Parliament was expected to attract wide support.
It reflects a recent criticism by the Law Society of Scotland that the present law needs clarification, misses certain types of prejudice and should be re-enacted in a single opiece of legislation. (Click here for report.)
Announcing the review in the Scottish Parliament, Minister for Community Safety and Legal Affairs Annabelle Ewing said: “While we already have robust and comprehensive laws in place, we need to make sure that legislation is up to date and able to counter all forms of hate crime. That is why I have commissioned an independent review, to be chaired by Lord Bracadale.
“This review will help ensure we have the right legislative protection in place to tackle hate crime wherever and whenever it happens. I look forward to Lord Bracadale presenting his findings.”
In a statement Lord Bracadale said: “I welcome this invitation to conduct a review of the Scottish criminal law dealing with conduct motivated by hatred, malice, ill will or prejudice. Hate crime legislation has developed intermittently over many years and it is important to consider whether it currently provides appropriate, effective and consistent protection for Scottish communities.
“I am keen for the review to be informed by evidence. I intend to meet key community representatives and those involved in applying the law, as well as carrying out a public consultation, to ensure that the views of those with a direct interest will be heard and considered as part of the review.”
Welcoming the move, Ian Cruickshank, convener of the Law Society of Scotland's Criminal Law Committee, commented: “Tackling hate crimes taking place in communities across Scotland is essential and it is important to ensure that there is clarity in our law to be able to identify these types of crimes. We welcome the Scottish Government‘s decision to launch an independent review to evaluate how well the existing law is working and where it might be improved.
“There is a significant amount of legislation which has been introduced over the years by both the Scottish and UK Parliaments with the aim of preventing and eradicating hate crime and prejudice. We think there would be potential benefits in bringing this together within a single piece of legislation which would provide clarity and assist with easy identification of offences and the protections afforded to victims of these types of crime."