Group welcomes review into hate crime

A Forth Valley-based equality and human rights charity has welcomed the Scottish Government's commissioning of an independent review of hate crime legislation with a view to increasing its effectiveness in tackling the issue.

A CSREC session on hate crime with Police Scotland
A CSREC session on hate crime with Police Scotland

Central Scotland Regional Equality Council (CSREC) say it will provide evidence to the review in a bid to strengthen legislation. The review, expected to take a year to complete, will be led by Alastair Campbell QC, who took the title of Lord Bracadale after being appointed a Judge of the Supreme Courts in 2003.

The principal aim of the Bracadale review is to assess whether existing hate crime legislation in Scotland represents the most effective approach for the justice system to deal with criminal conduct motivated by ‘malice or ill-will towards an identifiable social group’ – the Scottish Government’s definition of Hate Crime.

Typically, perpetrators of hate crime, fuelled by prejudice, direct acts of violence or hostility towards people because of who they are – or who they are perceived to be – in terms of race, disability, religious background, sexual orientation or transgender or gender identity.

CSREC manager Arun Gopinath said: “We can provide evidence of lived experiences of our service users and also the barriers that we, as an organisation, have faced while reporting hate crimes and the progress of cases through the criminal justice system due to requirements of current legislation.”

Lord Bracadale’s review on hate crime legislation will consider whether the current mix of statutory aggravations, common law powers and specific hate crime offences is the most appropriate criminal law approach to take and how any identified gaps, anomalies and inconsistencies might be addressed.

In their concluding analysis, the panel carrying out the review have been charged with ensuring that any changes proposed to hate crime legislation are compatible with international human rights and equality standards, including that of freedom of speech.

CSREC chairman Michael Giannandrea said: “We welcome the review and look forward to working with Lord Bracadale to ensure that hate crime legislation is fit for the times we live in, includes aggravations not available in current legislation and that it is appropriate and provides effective protections for vulnerable persons and groups in our society.”

Ms Gopinath added: “The setting up of the Lord Bracadale review is a welcome step following the recommendations made by the Independent Advisory Group on Hate Crime, Prejudice and Community Cohesion chaired by Dr Duncan Morrow that released its report in September 2016.

“CSREC operate one of the busiest third party reporting centres in Scotland and over the past 18 months we have been focusing on increasing awareness of hate crime and discrimination and how to report them.

“We have a support service that works with victims of hate behaviour and therefore feel we will be able to provide valuable input to Lord Bracadale’s review.

“We are also holding consultation sessions so we can inform the review with current realities and also hope to the to facilitate focus groups in Forth Valley/Central Scotland.”

At the time of announcing the setting up of the Independent Review by Lord Bracadale, Scotland’s Minister for Community Safety and Legal Affairs, Annabelle Ewing, said: “I believe the review is hugely important in ensuring that hate crime legislation is fit for the 21st century.

“We must ensure appropriate and effective protections are in place so that vulnerable communities have redress to law.

“There will be opportunities for everyone with an interest to contribute to the review. It is important to ensure that the review is informed by both practical experience of tackling hate crime through legislation and the real lived experience of those targeted by hate crimes.

“Lord Bracadale will be formally contacting people about the review in due course, and any evidence [members of the public] wish to submit will go directly to him.”