Scotland’s approach to hate crime law

I note that October’s edition of the Safer Communities journal has an interesting article called “Scotland’s approach to hate crime law.”

The abstract reads as follows:

Hate crime law and the criminal justice system in Scotland are different and distinct from the rest of the United Kingdom. This article presents an overview of the development of hate crime legislation in the country, including: racist hate crime; religious prejudice statutory aggravation covered by section 74 in the Criminal Justice (Scotland) Act 2003 and dealing with Protestant/Catholic sectarianism; and the Offences (Aggravation by Prejudice) (Scotland) Act 2009, relating to offences motivated by malice and ill will on grounds of disability, sexual orientation and transgender identity, the coverage of the last being unique in Europe. The legislation was enacted after lengthy consultations and achieving a broad consensus. It was agreed that a statutory aggravation of motivation by prejudice was not the appropriate way to deal with age related and gender based crimes and more work was needed. Scotland has not extended the offence of stirring up racial hatred to other forms of hatred. Compared to England and Wales, hate crime prosecution rates are significantly higher in Scotland, and the number of racially aggravated charges, per population, are four times higher. To what extent this is due to more crime, more reporting or a different approach to dealing with crime is not yet determined. The country’s proactive approach to dealing with race and religion hate crime was to be extended to disability, sexual orientation and transgender soon after the legislation was enacted.

I tend to think that this approach to crime is prone to difficulties as inevitably more and more categories are added to the list of aggravations. What about gender? Or age? Or social class? Shouldn’t we be stamping out these hate crimes too? And if the list is too long then all offences end up being aggravated and, therefore, none of them are. To quote W.S. Gilbert from The Gondoliers “When everybody’s somebody – then no-one’s anybody.”

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