Judge calls for age and gender hostility to be hate crimes

31 May 2018, 12:43 | Updated: 31 May 2018, 12:52

Police Scotland

Offences involving hostility based on age and gender should be classed as hate crimes, a judge has recommended.

Lord Bracadale proposed the changes as part of a review into hate crime laws in Scotland.

He praised the current system of statutory aggravations to offences involving malice and ill will based on race, religion, disability, sexual orientation and transgender identity but said the language used should be updated to "hostility" and age and gender included.

His 22 recommendations include expanding stirring up hatred offences to cover all these characteristics as current law covers only race.

He also recommends repealing the current racial harassment law as it is the only stand-alone offence and combining all the hate crime legislation in a single Act.

His report finds there is no need to create new laws to deal with hate crime online.

Lord Bracadale does not recommend creating a new law to replace the controversial Offensive Behaviour at Football and Threatening Communications Act, repealed by the Scottish Parliament earlier this year, saying the issue can be dealt with under existing offences.

He also recommends creating separate legislation, not classed as hate crime, to treat criminals who exploit vulnerable people as an aggravated offence.

He said: "I want to see a clear, consistent and easily understood scheme of hate crime legislation.

"The current scheme works well although I have suggested some ways in which it might be improved as well as extended.

"It involves what I call a baseline criminal offence, for example assault or threatening or abusive behaviour, aggravated by hostility towards a protected characteristic."

He added: "I'm recommending the extension of current protected characteristics to include gender and age.

"In relation to gender, I noted there has been an increase in the harassment and abuse of women both in the physical world and online.

"And there has been a cultural shift in the sense that women are not now prepared to tolerate behaviour that they might have put up with in the past."

He added that stirring up hatred is a "serious and insidious crime" and used the recent 'punish a Muslim' campaign as an example.

He said: "In a civilised society people should be able to live together, respecting one another and treating one another fairly regardless of differences.

"Now of course, hate crime legislation on its own will not achieve that but a clear, well defined and implemented scheme does have a powerful contribution to make."

Lord Bracadale has been chairing the independent review since January last year at the request of the Scottish Government, which has accepted Scotland's hate crime laws should be brought into a single Act and has noted all the other recommendations, on which it plans to consult.

Minister for Community Safety Annabelle Ewing said: "The Scottish Government will use this report as a basis for wider consultation with communities and groups across the country on how to bring forward new legislation that is fit for the 21st century."

She said work will continue across Scotland to prevent hate crime.