Humza Yousaf confirms Hate Crime Bill amendments
Scotland’s justice secretary Humza Yousaf has confirmed his U-turn on the controversial Hate Crime Bill by outlining changes he wants to make to the proposed legislation.
Mr Yousaf has written to Holyrood’s justice committee, confirming details of amendments the government will lodge after an outcry about the law’s impact on freedom of expression.
Last month, after weeks of backing the Bill, Mr Yousaf accepted the draft law could be used to “prosecute entirely legitimate acts of expression”.
In his letter to MSPs, he said the amendments would seek “to change the operation of the stirring up hatred offences in the Bill relating to age, disability,
religion, sexual orientation, transgender identity and variations in sex characteristics”.
"If approved by Parliament, these changes will have the effect that the stirring up hatred offences relating to these characteristics would require an intention on the part of the accused to stir up hatred as a necessary requirement for the offence to be committed,” he said.
Concerns had been raised about a new offence in the Hate Crime and Public Order (Scotland) Bill of “stirring up hatred”, which would not have required proof of "intent” for an offence to be committed.
Spokesman for the Free to Disagree Campaign, Jamie Gillies, welcomed Mr Yousaf’s amendments.
He said: “We are grateful for Mr Yousaf for being willing to listen to concerns from a range of stakeholders and limit the offences to ‘intent’. There are several issues remaining with the draft legislation and we look forward to working with others in the coming weeks to see these addressed.”
However, there are still other concerns with the Bill that have been raised by MSPs, including terms such as “abusive” being vague, that there’s no definition of “hatred”, that free speech protections are “inadequate”, and that discussions in the home could be criminalised.
Campaigners have also asked for a “prosecution lock” as exists in the rest of the UK, where a senior law officer is required to consent to any stirring up prosecutions and said there is too low a threshold around the ‘possession of inflammatory material’ offences in the Bill.
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