The Scottish Parliament yesterday passed legislation that seeks to ban hate crime against lesbian, gay bisexual and transgendered (LGBT) people.
The vote follows the adoption of similar legislation in England and Wales.
The Scottish Government has been working with Green MSP Patrick Harvie on his Offences (Aggravation by Prejudice) (Scotland) Bill that forces courts to take into account anti-LGBT hatred and motivation when sentencing. Racial, religious and anti-disabled motivations must also be considered by courts.
Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill welcomed the vote saying: “No one in Scotland should have a crime committed against them simply on the basis of disability or sexual orientation. With hate crime, that is exactly what happens.
“This Bill will improve the way the courts deal with these crimes. If it’s shown that the motivation for an offence was hostility and ill-will based on sexual orientation, transgender identity or disability, that will now be taken into account and the sentence be able to reflect that.
“This Bill sends a clear message that prejudice, hatred and crime aimed at specific groups is unacceptable and will not be tolerated. That’s why I am pleased that the Bill has now been passed by Parliament.”
Mr Harvie who first introduced the bill said: “The Parliament has today spoken with one voice, and this is a day all Scots can be proud of.
“At last, our courts will be required to hand down sentences for hate crimes against LGBT and disabled Scots that reflect the true nature of these crimes, just as they already can for offences motivated by racial or religious hatred. This legislation is a small but significant step in the right direction, but I personally will never be satisfied until these abhorrent crimes are a thing of the past altogether.
“I would also like to thank all those who have helped this Bill get onto the statute books, including those brave victims who have been prepared to come forward as well as a wide range of voluntary organisations, the police, and Scottish Ministers.”
The Bill creates aggravations, similar to those which exist for race and religion hate crime, for crimes motivated by prejudice relating to disability, sexual orientation and transgender status. It means that courts, when sentencing crimes motivated by malice or ill-will based on a victim’s actual or presumed sexual orientation, transgender identity or disability, must take into account the motivation for the offence. This may then result in an alternative or a more severe sentence.