New legislation that will allow Scotland’s courts can impose tougher sentences for offences aggravated by the victim’s disability, gender identity or sexual orientation should be law by 2009.
The Sentencing of Offences Aggravated by Prejudice (Scotland) Bill was proposed by Patrick Harvie, a Scottish Green MSP, last year.
It would require the aggravation of an offence by prejudice on grounds of disability, sexual orientation or transgender identity to be taken into account in sentencing.
He told PinkNews.co.uk that he is “confident” it will become law by next summer.
But he urged LGBT people and their straight supporters to contact their MSPs to make sure the bill is supported.
Tomorrow the Scottish government will unveil its legislative programme for the coming Parliamentary session.
The SNP formed a minority government after they won the most seats in the May 2007 election.
While Mr Harvie’s bill will not be on the legislative programme for the government, he is being given support by the SNP.
“The government programme will not include it because they are supporting me to take it forward,” he told PinkNews.co.uk.
“The SNP has given me support in the form of a bill team, civil servants who assist with the drafting of the bill.”
Mr Harvie said a sense of frustration led him to move the new legislation forwards as a member’s bill, especially when it became clear that the SNP would not be introducing a criminal justice bill to which it could be attached.
“This has been dragging on for years,” Mr Harvie said.
“It was raised first in 2001 and has been going on since then, with working groups and consultations and long series of government commitments.”
A 2004 working group, which included police, the Crown Office and gay and disabled groups recommended the legislation.
But before the 2007 election, the momentum was lost.
After he was re-elected for the Glasgow region, Mr Harvie introduced his own bill.
“There have been some delaying tactics from the Tories, which is disappointing. Hopefully those have run their course.”
The Parliament’s justice committee will examine the bill in the first few months of 2008. They should produce a report, looking at implementation through the Scots legal system, by April.
There will then be a debate in the chamber and a short amending stage.
Mr Harvie is confident it will become law by summer 2009, but urged people to make their views known.
“At Pride in Glasgow last week I asked people to email their MSPs and explain to them why this legislation is required,” he said.
“We have the numbers, it’s just getting it through the process – once we get to the vote it’s clear the SNP and Liberals will vote and so, hopefully, will Labour MSPs.”
A hate crimes bill was supported in the Liberal Democrat and Scottish National Party’s 2007 election manifestos.
Stonewall Scotland, the Equality and Human Rights Commission, Capability Scotland, Amnesty International, the Equality Network, SAMH, LGBT Youth Scotland, the Guide Dogs for the Blind Association and HIV Scotland all support Mr Harvie’s bill.