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Today’s debate on preventing and eradicating hate crime and prejudice provides a welcome opportunity to raise awareness about, and to endeavour to address, that vexing issue. Sadly, an array of attitudes and behaviours can be categorised as “hate crime”. In the time that is available to me I will focus on three particular aspects.
The first is termed “revenge porn”, and involves sharing intimate images without consent. The Justice Committee of session 4 tackled the issue in its final bill, in March this year. It was described as one of the most insidious crimes and one that can have far reaching and lifelong consequences for its victims. Members of the committee heard evidence from witnesses that revenge porn can have a “devastating and humiliating effect” on people’s lives.
Witnesses also stated that a specific offence to tackle the issue would
“send out a clear message that society does not tolerate that behaviour, clear up uncertainties about whether the behaviour is legal or not, and might have a deterrent effect.”
It is therefore welcome that, once the act comes into force, it will criminalise non-consensual disclosing of, or threat to disclose, intimate photographs or films, thereby providing a deterrent to misuse of modern technology for dissemination and promotion of revenge porn. Activities that can be described as revenge porn have quite rightly received a considerable amount of media attention during the past few years.
In contrast, the second form of hate crime that I want to highlight involves disabled people and has been less prominent in the public eye. It is very much present in society today and includes wide-ranging instances of ridicule and abuse being directed at disabled people. Those who have been targeted include elderly people. An old woman who relies on a walking stick was the subject of a torrent of abuse without any provocation, and had her handbag knocked off her seat while she was travelling on a train. Veterans who have disabilities have been openly mocked and jeered, and people who have learning difficulties have been made fun of and bullied.