Lord Bracadale Review of Hate Crime

The Scottish Government has charged senior judge Lord Bracadale to chair an independent review of hate crime legislation in Scotland. The remit for the review, announced in January by Annabelle Ewing, Minister for Community Safety and Legal Affairs, is to consider whether existing hate crime law represent the most effective approach for the justice system to deal with criminal conduct motivated by hatred, malice, ill-will or prejudice.

In particular, Lord Bracadale will consider and provide recommendations on the following:

·        Whether the current mix of statutory aggravations, common law powers and specific hate crime offences is the most appropriate criminal law approach to take

·        Whether the scope of existing laws should be adjusted, including whether the religious statutory aggravation should be adjusted to reflect further aspects of religiously motivated offending

·        Whether new categories of hate crime should be created for characteristics such as age and gender (which are not currently covered)

·        Whether existing legislation can be simplified, rationalised and harmonised in any way, such as through the introduction of a single consolidated hate crime act

·        How any identified gaps, anomalies and inconsistencies can be addressed in a new legislative framework, ensuring this interacts effectively with other legislation guaranteeing human rights and equality.

The next step for the independent review is to undertake a consultation on existing hate crime legislation, giving consideration to the points, above. The consultation will close on 23rd November 2017 with Lord Bracadale expected to publish a final report early in 2018. The consultation webpage can be accessed via this link.

The Catholic Church has engaged with the review and will submit a response to the consultation. The consultation is open to anyone and we would encourage individuals or groups with an interest to seriously consider submitting a response.

It is helpful to note that Catholicism remains the most targeted religion in terms of religiously aggravated charges in Scotland, with a total of 57% of all charges. The next most targeted religion is Protestantism which makes up 24% of all charges. It is disturbing reading for Catholics as Catholicism has consistently been top of the religiously aggravated offences league table and this despite the Catholic community in Scotland making up only 17% of the population. The truth is, Catholics and Catholicism is disproportionately targeted in Scotland.

In the meantime, if you think you have been the victim of a hate crime you should contact the police. If the matter is an emergency then you should dial 999, or 101 if it is a less serious matter but still requires an immediate response. However, some incidents may be more minor in nature and do not require an immediate response. For these matters you should complete this online form on the Police Scotland website.