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Scotland gets new laws to tackle hate crime

By Gregor White

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New legislation to tackle hate crime will come into effect from April.
New legislation to tackle hate crime will come into effect from April.

Greater protections for victims and communities against hate crimes are set to come into force next month.

The Hate Crime and Public Order (Scotland) Act will provide greater protection for victims and communities from April 1.

It creates new stirring up of hatred offences for protected characteristics including age, disability, religion, sexual orientation, and transgender identity.

These extra provisions will add to existing stirring up racial hatred offences, which have been in place since 1986.

Recent statistics show that 5738 charges of hate crime were reported in Scotland in 2022-23.

A new Scottish Government public awareness raising campaign supported by Police Scotland has been launched. The Hate Hurts campaign shows the impact of hate crime and encourages those who have witnessed or experienced a hate crime to come forward.

Minister for Victims and Community Safety, Siobhian Brown, said: “For those impacted by hatred and prejudice, the results can be traumatic and life changing.

"While we respect everyone’s right to freedom of expression, nobody in our society should live in fear or be made to feel like they don’t belong, and the Scottish Government is committed to building safer communities that live free from hatred and prejudice.

“Hate crime is behaviour that is both criminal and rooted in prejudice. It can be verbal, physical, online or face-to-face.

"The new law will give greater protections to those who need it and helps to form the basis of understanding about the type of behaviour that is not acceptable in our society.

“We must do all we can to give victims and witnesses the confidence to report instances of hate crime, which is why we have launched a new campaign, ‘Hate Hurts’.

"The campaign is informed by lived experience, and explains what a hate crime is, the impact it has on victims and how to report it.”

Chief Superintendent Faroque Hussain, hate crime prevention lead for Police Scotland, said: “Hate crime is vile and wrong. To target a person, a group or a community because of who they are, how they look, or how they choose to live their lives, undermines freedoms and rights we are entitled to enjoy as human beings.

“We know it can be hard for people to report a hate crime, and in some cases to even recognise or acknowledge that they have been a victim.

"We want everyone targeted by hate crime, or those who witness it, to have confidence to come forward. They can be assured they will be treated with dignity and respect and that the circumstances they report will be fully investigated.”

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