Tuesday, 15 January 2008

Hate Crime

It's been a quiet day, but with the announcement that the Scottish Government will back Green MSP Patrick Harvie's "Sentencing of Offences Aggravated by Prejudice (Scotland)" Bill, I had a wee think about what it meant.

Of course I have no problem with the sentiment. Effectively what the bill does is extend the current hate crimes legislation (covering acts predicated upon racial or religious grounds) to include crimes motivated by discrimination against the gay community and disable people. And it brings Scotland into line with the rest of the UK.

And this is good. What we are saying is that, in a modern society, it is not acceptable to use any element of a person's identity as a discriminating factor against them, and that any crime committed against someone where any of these elements is used as a motivating factor should be further punished.

However, and this is where I agree with the Tories, shouldn't we be saying that about any crime? "Let me give you an example". If I (and I am not a member of any minority group here - I'm an able-bodied straight white male) and my gay friend were beaten up by two different people, me for, say, wearing a hat and him for being gay, is it right that the attack on me is somehow seen as less serious in the eyes of the law?

Of course there is an argument to be made. I just don't know if that argument has been made to the right degree. And as Bill Aitken (Tory Justice Spokesperson) said, the Scottish legal system prides itself on "everyone being equal in the eyes of the law". But isn't this an imbalance?

Maybe I'm just picking as there was nothing much else of interest today. But I'd be interested to hear thoughts on the issue. Don't get me wrong - I'm not against the bill or its sentiments. I'm just wondering two things: is it needed and is it fair?


Tartan Hero 18 January 2008 at 22:14  

The difference Malc is when gay men (usually) are singled out for physical attack purely because of their sexuality (as anyone else because of their religion, disability, or race) - that is what hate crime is about. If two people are attacked at random, one of whom is gay, that would not in law constitute a hate crime and couldn't be prosecuted as such under the law which Patrick Harvie and people like me support. It is too simplistic to think that an attack a gay man is a hate crime on every occasion. Equality groups have never suggested that but the media like to perpetrate it.

Malcolm Harvey 20 January 2008 at 16:50  

That's a fair criticism of the way I made my point, but I still don't think it gets to the heart of the question.

As I have stated before, I'm not against the sentiment - I think discrimination of any sort (and, consequently, a crime committed because of it) is disgusting. But I worry whether it is right to legislate against what someone is thinking - I think it gets into the realms of an Orwellian "Thought-Crime".

Benny 25 August 2008 at 13:53  

I totally agree with you Malc, your final sentence in the comments sums it up well. It's not right to legislate on what people think.

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