What is a "hate crime"? Such a crime is generally understood to be a crime motivated by malice and ill-will towards a social group. For example, a crime such as an assault that was motivated by someone's religion would be seen as a hate crime.
The Scottish Government believes that there is no excuse for any form of hate crime: it is simply not acceptable and it will not be tolerated. When it does happen, we want the justice system to deal with such crimes effectively so that victims have the confidence to report it, secure in the knowledge that they will receive a good level of service from the police and other agencies.
Traditionally, hate crimes have been dealt with by the justice system through the courts taking the aggravating factor (that the offence was committed as a result of malice and ill-will) into account when sentencing someone found guilty of any offence at common law.
In recent years, Parliament has provided in statute in relation to hate crimes as it believes this helps focus attempts by the justice system to address such offending.
For example, Part III of the Public Order Act 1986 introduced offences relating to the incitement of racial hatred, for which the maximum penalty is an unlimited fine or seven years' imprisonment.
Section 33 of the Crime and Disorder Act 1998 introduced offences of pursuing a racially-aggravated course of conduct which amounts to harassment of a person and acting in a manner which is racially aggravated and which causes, or is intended to cause, a person alarm or distress. The maximum penalty is an unlimited fine or seven years imprisonment.
Section 96 of the Crime and Disorder Act 1998 made provision for offences racially aggravated, requiring courts to take such aggravations into account when determining sentence.
Section 74 of the Criminal Justice (Scotland) Act 2003 makes provision for offences aggravated by religious prejudice, requiring courts to take such aggravations into account when determining sentence and also to state the extent of and reasons for any consequent difference in sentence. This provision was enacted following the report of the Working Group on Religious Hatred.
The Offences (Aggravation by Prejudice) (Scotland) Act 2009 provides for statutory aggravations for crimes motivated by malice and ill will towards an individual based on their sexual orientation, transgender identity or disability. Where offences are proven to be as a result of such malice or ill-will, the court must take that into account when determining sentence. This can lead to a longer custodial sentence or higher fine or a different type of disposal.
The Criminal Justice and Licensing (Scotland) Act 2010 strengthens statutory aggravations for racial and religiously motivated crimes ( Section 74 of the Criminal Justice (Scotland) Act 2003). Where offences are proven to be as a result of such malice or ill-will, the court must take that into account when determining sentence. This can lead to a longer custodial sentence or higher fine or a different type of disposal.