More changes have been made to the Scottish Government’s plagued hate crime Bill, following pressure from opponents.
In response to the Justice Committee’s report calling for a number of changes to the controversial Bill, the SNP has announced significant amendments. These include strengthening the protection for freedom of expression and an objective test to decide if something is ‘abusive’.
And Section 5, which related to the possession of ‘inflammatory materials’, has been removed entirely. Critics had pointed out that the broad definition meant people could have been criminalised for owning a Bible.
Justice Secretary Humza Yousaf said he had accepted “the overwhelming majority” of the recommendations made by the Justice Committee and said he will “continue to listen to concerns members may have about any aspect of the Bill and, where possible, will try and reach common ground”.
Jamie Gillies, spokesman for the Institute-backed Free to Disagree campaign, said the changes would “help protect freedom of expression – a vital right cherished by all citizens – and increase public confidence in the proposals”.
But he added that more changes still need to be made in order to bring the Bill into line with hate crime legislation elsewhere in the UK, including the addition of a “dwelling defence”.
At the moment, so-called ‘hate speech’ inside the home would be subject to police intervention, with Humza Yousaf refusing to make private conversations exempt from prosecution. He insists that ‘hateful speech’ in the home deserves to be criminalised.