Scotland’s new hate crime law

// 23 March 2010

From a press release by the Equality Network about Scotland’s new hate crime law, which will come into effect tomorrow, 24 March 2010:

[…] The new law is called the Offences (Aggravation by Prejudice) (Scotland) Act. It will mean that homo/biphobic, transphobic and disability-prejudice crime is properly recognised as hate crime.

This is the first transgender-inclusive hate crime legislation in Europe, and has the most inclusive definition of transgender identity in any European legislation.

From tomorrow, any criminal offence which is partly or wholly motivated by prejudice on grounds of disability, sexual orientation or transgender identity, will be dealt with as a hate crime all the way through the system.

The offence could for example be an assault, or vandalism, or verbal threats and abuse which can be charged as breach of the peace, or any other crime. If the person committing the offence uses homo/biphobic, transphobic, or disability-prejudice language, or if there is any other evidence of their prejudiced motive, that makes it a hate crime.

If anyone witnessing a crime thinks it was a hate crime, the police must record it as a hate incident. If there is any evidence of the hate motive, for example prejudiced language was used, it will be charged as a hate crime. If the person charged is found guilty, the hate motive will be taken into account in sentencing – and the court must say publicly what difference the hate motive made to the sentence. […]

Comments From You

Laura // Posted 23 March 2010 at 10:39 am

Excellent news!

Jennifer Drew // Posted 23 March 2010 at 10:52 am

Next logical and long overdue step would be for Scotland’s parliament to enact legislation making it a ‘hate crime’ concerning verbal/physical/sexual/psychological violence men direct at women and girls solely because the woman/girl is biologically female and hence not ‘human.’

Femicide has not disappeared but continues to be kept hidden under the aegis of homicide.

Julie K // Posted 23 March 2010 at 11:09 am

Yes, I would just love to see the Scottish parliament enacting a law stating that “women are biologically female and hence not human”.

I’m sure that would go down well all round.

dom // Posted 23 March 2010 at 1:32 pm

Whilst it is necessary and correct to distinguish crimes motivated by racial prejudice & homophobia, I question the motives behind including transgender, bisexual & disabled persons within the definition of hate crime.

Recognising prejudice within society is one thing, but legislating against it seems to be a double edged sword. Is identifying a section of society as vulnerable to prejudice addressing the prejudice or upholding it?

Whenever I have heard people with disabilities, for instance, speak about their lives, it is their longing to be treated equally & SEEN to be equal within society that concerns them, not to be treated differently. Of course their practical needs can be different & they must be recognised and catered for, but the more we identify prejudice as being simply abusive & violent, the more we risk marginalising people still further.

There is a fine line between recognising the prejudices that exist within a society & ACCEPTING these prejudices as inevitable. Crimes need to be dealt with on a case by case basis and the victims treated as individuals, not “types”, lest we marginalise still further the very people that hate crime laws exist to protect and unwittingly reinforce the prejudices which the law has chosen to identify.

Helen G // Posted 23 March 2010 at 1:45 pm

In a perfect world, yes, members of marginalised groups would indeed be treated as individuals. Unfortunately, this isn’t a perfect world, and until that day dawns, then I think legislation like this has its uses. Certainly, as far as my own experience goes, it’s hard to see how I for one could be marginalised still further.

Anna // Posted 23 March 2010 at 2:04 pm

‘Whilst it is necessary and correct to distinguish crimes motivated by racial prejudice & homophobia, I question the motives behind including transgender, bisexual & disabled persons within the definition of hate crime.’

Why? Why one and not the other?

gadgetgal // Posted 23 March 2010 at 2:33 pm

Hi dom – I understand your points, and I think the one you made about treating crimes on a case-by-case basis is good practice anyway. I do think it would be good, though, to expand the current hate crime laws, and my reason is simply that with the legislation in place it actually offers MORE of an opportunity to treat cases individually.

Now, for example, if someone uses transphobic vandalism like offensive graffiti to attack someone, it can only be treated as vandalism, which doesn’t really help compensate for the seriousness of the offence, nor does it help to distinguish the kind of rehabilitation someone requires. If someone is just into tagging and writes their name then that’s fairly harmless, but if someone hates one particular group of people for an arbitrary reason and uses graffiti to show it, then they need to be treated differently, probably punished more, and have different kinds of help to try and make them change. If you can’t distinguish between the two then someone (probably both victim AND perpetrator) will be lost in the system and no real change will come about to make society better for everyone.

I’m not a fan of introducing laws if we already have laws that aren’t enforced to cover it, but I think in this case there just isn’t the legislation to do so at the moment. I can understand what you say about not wanting to further marginalise people, but crime very much marginalises them, and it marginalises them much more so than laws to prosecute the people who commit them.

Kate // Posted 23 March 2010 at 2:37 pm

I think it is necessary to include motives if you are really interested in seeking justice for people. Say someone is beaten up on a night out for being gay. You could prosecute their attacker simply for assault, but that doesn’t really address what they did, nor that their “target” is far wider than the person assaulted that night.

Jeff // Posted 23 March 2010 at 3:03 pm

Was going to respond to dom’s post but gadgetgal said it all better than i could, so I’d just like to second that post please!

dom // Posted 23 March 2010 at 3:08 pm

Anna said:

Why? Why one and not the other?

Because unfortunately the term “hate crime” is subject to abuse by the media & it is the media, like it or not, who form public opinion.

Just as political correctness has been subverted & misused by the media…resulting in the popular ( and incorrect ) perception that political correctness is a force for bad, so too the term “hate crime” has become a term that is popularly abused.

Unforunately we live in a society that has seen a massive shift to the Right and with it a cynical view of “minorities” & their preceived “preferential treatment”.

The longer the list of candidates for hate crime becomes, the more we are in danger of creating a society that identifies any person who is not a white male heterosexual as a victim & not an individual.

The moronic bigots who hold onto these poisonous ideas are responsible for the introduction of hate crime laws…not their victims. Who is being served here?

angercanbepower // Posted 23 March 2010 at 4:01 pm

Dom, your point crops up time and again in various guises. I’ve seen people claim that women’s groups make women appear marginalised, that gender-based violence teams entrench and therefore perpetuate the idea that violence is carried out by men against women (I think Judith Butler says this somewhere) and so on. There is some truth in this.

In my view, though, this harm, while real, is generally significantly outweighed by the benefit that the above bodies bring to those that they support. The same is true, I think, of hate crime legislation.

Ultimately it’s just a question of judgment, and you may disagree, but I think it’s unrealistic of you to suggest that hate crime laws are purely disadvantageous or hurtful to those they (purportedly) defend. If you are at least willing to accept that there might be cases when they are useful for victims of crime, even if overall you do not believe they are beneficial, then I will be inclined to take your argument more seriously.

Anna // Posted 23 March 2010 at 4:28 pm

That didn’t explain why racism/homophobia laws should be allowed to stand whilst the rest shouldn’t.

dom // Posted 23 March 2010 at 6:09 pm

@ angercanbepower

“If you are at least willing to accept that there might be cases when they are useful for victims of crime, even if overall you do not believe they are beneficial, then I will be inclined to take your argument more seriously.”

I’ve not said that hate crime laws per se are a bad thing, I’ve made the point that it is how they are PERCEIVED by the general population that is problematic.

@ anna

My reasoning is simple. Some prejudices merit greater status than others. I know that is of little comfort to a transgender or bisexual person facing discrimination, but it is a fact.

“Hate crime” is a blanket term, therefore it doesn’t, as a two word phrase that has, via the media, entered the public’s conciousness, discriminate ( no pun intended ) between a person being murdered for being non white & the casual bullying ( however damaging to the victim it may be ) of a disabled person.

I am not suggesting that some people are more worthy of protection than others.

I’m not taking issue with a law that attempts to identify & deal with crimes of prejudice, I’m arguing that the broader the definition of “hate crime” becomes, the greater the risk of abuse of the law & the more ammunition you provide to an already prejudiced general public.

I’m playing devil’s advocate in other words. Just as in an ideal world we would not need laws to protect those facing prejudice, in a flawed world we need to recognise how people view one another…it’s not simply about law making & protecting the vulnerable, it’s also about considering how laws are perceived by the “invisible government” ( the media ) & how this perception effects the minds of the average idiot on the street.

earwicga // Posted 23 March 2010 at 7:24 pm

I don’t know why any of you are pissing round being polite to Dom. S/he is wrong, plain and simple.

Dom, if you aren’t transgender/ bisexual and/or disabled then sod off. If you are then you are very odd.

“I am not suggesting that some people are more worthy of protection than others.”

Yes, actually you are.

earwicga // Posted 23 March 2010 at 7:26 pm

Thanks for this post Helen. It is good news indeed. Did you see Tom Shakespeare’s article on CIF about hate crime?

gadgetgal // Posted 23 March 2010 at 7:55 pm

@dom

“I’ve not said that hate crime laws per se are a bad thing, I’ve made the point that it is how they are PERCEIVED by the general population that is problematic.”

Then the answer isn’t to not enact the law, the answer is to make the PR surrounding it a little better. Lots of people don’t like lots of laws, it doesn’t mean you then don’t legislate them, because the wider benefits to society outweigh the opinions of a few, that’s how most laws are made.

“I am not suggesting that some people are more worthy of protection than others.”

Yes, you are:

“My reasoning is simple. Some prejudices merit greater status than others.”

Setting aside that particular contradiction, when you say:

“it’s not simply about law making & protecting the vulnerable, it’s also about considering how laws are perceived by the “invisible government” ( the media ) & how this perception effects the minds of the average idiot on the street.”

You can CONSIDER how the laws are perceived, but the law is there to protect the vulnerable, so that takes precedence over how it is perceived. People who suffer from hate crimes are generally already castigated by the average idiot on the street, this law is to protect them against that.

And fortunately it’s not up to you who is deserving of that protection and who isn’t.

coldneedles // Posted 23 March 2010 at 8:14 pm

Don: “Hate crime” is a blanket term, therefore it doesn’t, as a two word phrase that has, via the media, entered the public’s conciousness, discriminate ( no pun intended ) between a person being murdered for being non white & the casual bullying ( however damaging to the victim it may be ) of a disabled person.

Disabled people are routinely murdered and assaulted because of their disabilities. It’s astoundingly ignorant to reduce this to casual bullying (which in itself is a serious problem as it makes people feel frightened, unsafe and devalued in their own communities).

Do you have any understanding at all of the problems facing disabled people? (Or indeed of trans people who face an astoundingly high murder rate). Because merely typing disability hate crime into google will get you the names of those murdered. Or going to disability rights sites like FRIDA will give you news links to horrific stories of abuse.

If you weren’t aware of this then you should think about why you decided to concern troll about a subject you clearly know nothing about.

Anna // Posted 23 March 2010 at 8:36 pm

‘My reasoning is simple. Some prejudices merit greater status than others. I know that is of little comfort to a transgender or bisexual person facing discrimination, but it is a fact. ‘

Aah, right.

Let me put it to you simply: your reasoning is incredibly arbitrary, shallow, and fucked up. Your ‘facts’ are ridiculous. Hate is hate wherever you find it, and to suggest that some of the most oppressed and discriminated against groups should just suck it up – communities that are targeted specifically every day – because you’ve decided that it’s not as bad as being racially or homophobically abused is frankly insulting to anyone that’s been marginalised.

dom // Posted 23 March 2010 at 9:56 pm

Thanks for the abusive responses. No anti feminist, sexist, racist, transphobic, classist, ablist comments allowed, but non specific personal abuse, foul language & insults readily accepted.

Looks like rule number 6 is reserved only for those whose comments the moderator agrees with.

Holding a contentious opinion does not make you a “troll” either…it simply means you’ve chosen to label me as such.

If my comments have proved one thing, it is that you don’t need to be disabled, transgender or bisexual to raise the ire of your fellow person.

As I said, I am playing devil’s advocate. The civil rights movement in the US was born out of black people’s suffering…it soon grew to include the suffering of women & homosexuals. There were, and still are, black activists who resent the inclusion of women’s rights & gay rights under “their” banner because they believe, rightly or wrongly, that their suffering is UNIQUE TO THEM.

You have decided to interpret my view that the prejudice experienced by one person or group of people is not & cannot be equated with the suffering of a separate & different group experiencing another set of prejudices as a dismissal of that group’s suffering. I did not say this & I do not believe this.

In effect, the idea I was advancing was too subtle for your own prejudiced minds to register because your prejudice is deeper than mine ever could be. It’s the prejudice of someone who cannot see prejudice for what it is.

Helen G // Posted 23 March 2010 at 10:26 pm

Dom, you’ve come to this space to – in your words – play devil’s advocate, you’ve managed to offend a number of us as a result and you’re surprised that your position has been challenged? As a transsexual woman, the views you’ve expressed have become increasingly uncomfortable for me to read and I’ve had just about enough.

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