Fife Centre for Equalities has submitted a response to the Scottish Government’s Independent review of hate crime legislation. While this consultation is now closed, served as a first point of call towards a more in-depth consultation led by Lord Bracadle over this coming summer.

In our view, we welcome the review and also the use of a single definition of Hate Crime.  As the lead organisation for Fife Hate Incidents Review Group, we found that each partner has their own definition and a consultation process to agree on a common definition was needed in order to progress policy and practice.

A similar process at the legislative level would simplify processes within and across organisations; a good example illustrating this is the current Police Scotland SOP.

  • Pg6: [Hate crime is defined as] “any crime perceived by the victim or another person as being motivated by malice, ill will towards a social group”
  • Pg7: “Victims do not require to be member of a social group in order to be victim of hate crime”

We suggest to keep the definition free from limiting clauses, e.g.  defining hate crime as “any crime perceived by the victim or another person as being motivated by malice or ill will”.

This would address this issue with the current mix of statutory aggravations, common law powers and specific hate crime offences that both complicates and replicates aspects of criminal law. The aforementioned example of Hate Crime definition within Police Scotland SOP’s is just one example of how cumbersome policy making can be when several caveats are in place.

Just as the Equality Act 2010 simplified discrimination law across protected characteristics, a single hate crime act can and should rationalise legislation so as to:

  1. Address unequal access to justice between social groups that have faced historical precedents of discrimnation (e.g. the current legislation offer no aggravated offence for disability, sexual orientation or transgender identity while this is in place for race, religion or sexual orientation offences – it places a value judgement on the respective groups’ rights to seek redress)
  2. So as to promote an universal zero-tolerance approach to hate crime

More than that, it is an opportunity to go beyond silo thinking based on monitoring and replicating specialist policies for ‘nine protected characteristics’. Instead it would enable more collaboration through sharing common language, practice and resources that then be applicable across several agencies.