Campaigners who say that men cannot be women could be prosecuted under the SNP’s controversial hate crime Bill, Scotland’s Justice Secretary has confirmed.
Humza Yousaf said that it would not be a crime to express such an opinion, but campaigning which was deemed by a court to be ‘deliberately provocative’ would be classed as an offence.
The Hate Crime and Public Order (Scotland) Bill is set to criminalise words or behaviour perceived as ‘abusive’ and intended to ‘stir up hatred’ against particular groups, but lacks sufficient protections for free speech.
Weaponising the law
Susan Smith, Director of women’s rights group For Women Scotland, commented: “When people start throwing around accusations of hate, especially when those people are perceived to have an authority, we think there will be a chilling effect”.
She added: “The stirring up part of this bill has the potential to make life very much harder for a number of people by using this law as a weapon.”
The Justice Secretary also maintained that he has no intention of including a defence in the Bill to protect conversations in the home from police intervention.
He said: “Of course, if there is a stirring up of hatred that meets the threshold” and “that is done round the dinner table with ten of your mates and that can be proven beyond reasonable doubt that would be prosecuted, potentially, under the offence.”
Last week, critics said that despite recent concessions, the hate crime Bill still requires major changes before it is passed.
Yousaf has already amended the Bill to ensure an offence can only be committed if there is ‘intent’ to stir up hatred.
Now he plans to also amend the section of the Bill covering freedom of expression and expression on religion so that “mere expressions of antipathy, dislike, ridicule and insult” will not be criminalised.
But Scottish Conservative justice spokesman Liam Kerr MSP said that the concessions are only “minor changes around the margins instead of removing the clear attacks on freedom of speech”.