The Faculty of Advocates is not convinced that specific hate crime legislation is required in Scotland.
In a response to an independent review of hate crime legislation by Lord Bracadale, the Faculty stated: “Although others, in particular those to whom such behaviour is directed, are understandably concerned at the effects of such conduct, it is submitted that the common law and existing legislation are robust enough in their current form.”
Current legislation covers offences in relation to race, religion, disability, sexual orientation and transgender identity.
The review is asking whether there should be other protected groups.
The Faculty said in its response: “To extend the law to further specific groups would risk causing confusion and uncertainty as it is often difficult to place people into a particular group. For example, at what age does one become old?”
The Faculty identified regulation of social media companies as an area where the current law should be tightened.
“Hate crimes which occur online…should be tackled both through the prosecution of the individuals and by regulation of social media companies…If the purpose of such legislation is not only to punish those individuals who commit such offences but also to discourage them and others so inclined to act in this way, then this cannot be achieved without robust regulation of the social media companies.”
In relation to the 2012 Offensive Behaviour at Football and Threatening Communications (Scotland) Act, the Faculty said bigoted and sectarian behaviour should be subject to the criminal law whether or not it happened at a football match.
“If such behaviour is to be prosecuted in the context of a football match, the same behaviour should be treated no differently were it to occur in wider society. However, it seems clear that the number of prosecutions under this legislation bears no resemblance to the number of offences occurring under it. There is therefore a real practical problem in the enforcement of such legislation. There may be little point in passing such legislation if the resources available, or appetite, to enforce it are open to doubt.”