Hate Crimes

Question Time — Scottish Executive — General Questions – in the Scottish Parliament at 11:40 am on 27th April 2006.

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Photo of Patrick Harvie Patrick Harvie Green 11:40 am, 27th April 2006

To ask the Scottish Executive whether it intends, during this parliamentary session, to introduce a statutory aggravation for offences motivated by malice or ill-will towards an individual based on sexual orientation, transgender identity or disability, as recommended by the working group on hate crime. (S2O-9655)

Photo of Hugh Henry Hugh Henry Labour

In the debate on the legislative programme on 6 September last year, I announced that we intend to strengthen the laws that deal with hate crime. That remains our intention. The Scottish Executive is committed to tackling prejudice in all its forms, as we believe it has no place in our society.

Photo of Patrick Harvie Patrick Harvie Green

If that means that a statutory aggravation will be introduced, I warmly welcome it.

It is 18 months since the working group on hate crime reported its 14 or so recommendations, and a full year since the Executive told me that it would respond in due course. Will the minister confirm when the Executive will respond to all the recommendations, and not only to the three recommendations that relate to new legislation?

Photo of Hugh Henry Hugh Henry Labour

As Patrick Harvie is aware, the working group's recommendations are wide ranging and impact on a number of different areas, including the criminal justice system, the education curriculum, new legislation and media reporting, to name but a few. We have given very careful consideration to all the proposals. I assure Patrick Harvie that we will issue a formal response to the working group in the near future.

It is fair to say that, in the meantime, where new legislation is not required, we have made progress on many of the recommendations.

Photo of Phil Gallie Phil Gallie Conservative

Is the minister aware of the difficulties that the police face in administering the law as it stands? I am thinking of the problem of our overcrowded courts. Does he accept that it is nonsense to introduce legislation that is almost unenforceable? Surely legislation has to be prioritised.

Photo of Hugh Henry Hugh Henry Labour

It is not the Executive's intention—nor is it, I believe, the intention of the Parliament—to introduce legislation that is unenforceable. Since the creation of the Parliament, the Executive has consistently introduced legislation that makes a difference to people's quality of life.

Some things that happen in our society are abhorrent. It is right to put that on the record. I hope that neither Phil Gallie nor his party is suggesting that those in our society who suffer physical and verbal attacks for whatever reason should be left unprotected. The police do the job, and they do it to the best of their ability. I recognise the difficult circumstances under which they operate at times. That said, the Parliament would find it totally unacceptable if the Executive abandoned those in our society who suffer as a result of their views, status, gender or any other factor.