Scotland’s new hate crime law

From a press release by the Equality Network about Scotland’s new hate crime law, which will come into effect tomorrow, 24 March 2010:

[…] The new law is called the Offences (Aggravation by Prejudice) (Scotland) Act. It will mean that homo/biphobic, transphobic and disability-prejudice crime is properly recognised as hate crime.

This is the first transgender-inclusive hate crime legislation in Europe, and has the most inclusive definition of transgender identity in any European legislation.

From tomorrow, any criminal offence which is partly or wholly motivated by prejudice on grounds of disability, sexual orientation or transgender identity, will be dealt with as a hate crime all the way through the system.

The offence could for example be an assault, or vandalism, or verbal threats and abuse which can be charged as breach of the peace, or any other crime. If the person committing the offence uses homo/biphobic, transphobic, or disability-prejudice language, or if there is any other evidence of their prejudiced motive, that makes it a hate crime.

If anyone witnessing a crime thinks it was a hate crime, the police must record it as a hate incident. If there is any evidence of the hate motive, for example prejudiced language was used, it will be charged as a hate crime. If the person charged is found guilty, the hate motive will be taken into account in sentencing – and the court must say publicly what difference the hate motive made to the sentence. […]