Senior police officers fear activists will ‘weaponise’ Scot Govt new hate crime law

Activists in Scotland could take up precious police time with spurious allegations of ‘hate crime’ under new legislation, senior officers have warned.

In a letter to Holyrood’s Justice Committee, the Association of Scottish Police Superintendents (ASPS) said officers risked being drawn into “ill-tempered, abusive spats” between ‘fringe activists’ under the Hate Crime and Public Order Act.

Humza Yousaf’s controversial legislation, which came into effect on 1 April, has already faced criticism from parliamentarians, legal experts, political commentators and free speech advocates – including The Christian Institute-backed group Free to Disagree.


Chief Superintendent and ASPS President Rob Hay wrote that it was clear “the standard of public discourse on many controversial topics has descended into deeply polarised, entrenched positions.

“This is particularly prevalent online, where proponents of opposing viewpoints often forego rational discussion and debate in favour of threats and name-calling.”

Consequently, he said, the ASPS has “a concern that individuals who could be described as the ‘activist fringe’ of particular viewpoints (who exist across the political spectrum and are associated with many topics of debate) will seek to ‘weaponise’ the new legislation and associated police investigation”.

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He continued: “Like everyone else, police officers observe the nature of current public debate and have no desire to unnecessarily embroil the Service in controversy.”

While he acknowledged that levels of ‘hate crime’ are low in Scotland, he warned: “There is certainly enough anger and hateful bile online to occupy every police officer”.

The Chief Supt concluded: “ASPS view is that Police Scotland, currently with the lowest number of police officers in over a decade, must focus on those crimes and offences that cause the most harm and represent the highest risk to public safety.

“Should this new legislation result in a sustained increase in reported incidents, this will only be made harder, especially if those reports are spurious or misunderstand the extent of the legislation.”

Also see:

Humza Yousaf

SNP hate crime law faces barrage of criticism

‘Report hurtful words’ says Scots Govt ‘hate crime’ campaign

Scot Govt urged to ditch ‘hate crime’ law over free speech concerns

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