Mon. Apr 15th, 2024
alert-–-fears-grow-that-new-scottish-hate-crime-law-may-be-used-to-gag-free-speechAlert – Fears grow that new Scottish hate crime law may be used to gag free speech

Hate crime laws coming into effect in Scotland today could trigger a surge in politically motivated complaints.

Police said they expect to be bombarded with a ‘huge uplift’ in reports of alleged crimes, including from people trying to use the SNP legislation to silence anyone they disagree with.

It follows widespread condemnation of the new law – the Hate Crime and Public Order (Scotland) Act – amid fears it will be weaponised for political purposes. The legislation introduces offences for threatening or abusive behaviour which is intended to stir up hatred, which in Scotland previously only applied to race.

The law can even be broken within private family homes.

It makes it a crime to show ‘malice and ill-will’ against individuals or groups on the grounds of transgender status, ‘variations in sex characteristics’ or sexual orientation, as well as race, age, disability and religion.

Vocal opponents including Harry Potter author JK Rowling have warned the law will have a chilling effect on free speech

Vocal opponents including Harry Potter author JK Rowling have warned the law will have a chilling effect on free speech

Scotland's First Minister Humza Yousaf. There has been widespread condemnation of the new law ¿ the Hate Crime and Public Order (Scotland) Act ¿ amid fears it will be weaponised for political purposes

Scotland’s First Minister Humza Yousaf. There has been widespread condemnation of the new law – the Hate Crime and Public Order (Scotland) Act – amid fears it will be weaponised for political purposes

Vocal opponents including Harry Potter author JK Rowling have warned it will have a chilling effect on free speech. Rob Hay, president of the Association of Scottish Police Superintendents, said: ‘Our concern is that it could impact through a huge uplift, potentially, in reports – some of those potentially made in good faith but perhaps not meeting the threshold of the legislation, or potentially in cases where people are trying to actually actively use the legislation to score points against people who sit on the other side of a particularly controversial debate.’

Ch Supt Hay warned that public trust in police could be harmed. He told BBC Radio Scotland’s The Sunday Show: ‘If you have hopes of the police intervening at a particular level and actually the criminal threshold isn’t met then potentially you are going to be disappointed and lose trust in the police.

‘And at the other side of that, if you know fine well that something you have said does not meet the criminal threshold and yet it is reported to police and the police come and investigate you, then you in turn might feel that you’ve been stifled, you’ve been silenced.’

Police Scotland Chief Constable Jo Farrell has insisted the law will be applied proportionately, upholding people’s freedom of expression. Last week Scottish Conservative MSP Murdo Fraser revealed he was considering legal action against the force after an activist complained about one of his social media posts.

Officers decided the post did not amount to a crime but it was still classed as a ‘hate incident’ which will remain on record.

The law was passed in 2021 and – after three years of wrangling – finally takes effect today.

Scottish Conservative justice spokesman Russell Findlay (pictured) said: 'Humza Yousaf's Hate Crime Act comes into force on April Fools' Day but it is really no joke for the people of Scotland'

Scottish Conservative justice spokesman Russell Findlay (pictured) said: ‘Humza Yousaf’s Hate Crime Act comes into force on April Fools’ Day but it is really no joke for the people of Scotland’

Police Scotland Chief Constable Jo Farrell (pictured) has insisted the law will be applied proportionately, upholding people's freedom of expression

Police Scotland Chief Constable Jo Farrell (pictured) has insisted the law will be applied proportionately, upholding people’s freedom of expression

Scottish Conservative justice spokesman Russell Findlay said: ‘Humza Yousaf’s Hate Crime Act comes into force on April Fools’ Day but it is really no joke for the people of Scotland.

‘What happened to… Murdo Fraser is sinister and unacceptable and the concern is that other innocent people will end up in secret police files.

‘No matter how these cases are dealt with by police and prosecutors, the law in itself will have a chilling effect on free speech.’ Humza Yousaf said: ‘I would say to anybody who thinks they are a victim of hatred, we take that seriously, if you felt you are a victim of hatred, then of course reporting that to police is the right thing to do.’

The First Minister has said the legislation includes a ‘triple lock’ of protection for speech, including a defence for the accused’s behaviour being ‘reasonable’.

Women working for the Office for National Statistics could face disciplinary action if they object to sharing toilets and changing rooms with trans women.

The authority’s gender policy allows transitioning employees to decide when they want to use single-sex facilities in their newly identified gender, the Daily Telegraph reported.

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