Scottish Labour expresses ‘serious reservations’ over hate crime bill

Scottish Labour expresses 'serious reservations' over hate crime bill

James Kelly

Scottish Labour has expressed ‘serious reservations’ over the Scottish government’s proposed Hate Crime and Public Order (Scotland) Bill.

Justice spokesperson James Kelly’s submission to the Justice Committee in response to its call for views highlights a number of areas within the bill with particular focus on issues within part two of the proposed legislation, which introduces offences of stirring up hatred.

Mr Kelly said: “I have made clear my reservations around part two of the legislation, in particular the introduction of ‘stirring up hatred’ offences.

“I fear the government has not learned any lessons from the failures of the Offensive Behaviour at Football Act. The current drafting lacks legal clarity and could lead to a misguided revival of the unworkable 2012 Act.”

He added: “There is a significant divergence from similar law in England and Wales – where intent is required for a person to be criminalised for behaviour which another finds insulting.

“Under the current proposals, the law here would not require this intent to be present – which sets an alarming legal precedent and could result in the criminalisation of expressions of religious views.

“Even the terminology within these proposals is concerning, especially around the use of ‘insulting’ which is subjective and could cause serious legal confusion. The vague language used evokes memories of the now-repealed Football Act, where the ambiguity of provisions could have led to the criminalisation of legitimate expressions of culture and opinion.”

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