We will use your email address only for sending you newsletters. Please see our Privacy Notice for details of your data protection rights.
Matthew Lesh, head of research at the Adam Smith Institute and a free speech specialist has become the latest person to raise concerns about controversial reforms in the Scottish Government’s new Hate Crime Bill. The Hate Crime and Public Order (Scotland) Bill looks to extend the law on ‘hate crime’ covering particular characteristics, including religion, sexual orientation and transgender identity.
If the law is passed by Holyrood, it means that words or behaviour considered to be “abusive” and “likely” to stir up hatred would constitute an offence.
Referring to this part of the legislation, Mr Lesh told Express.co.uk: “Typically, these laws wouldn’t apply to private conservations.”
But he stressed what was unique about the SNP’s hate crime law was the fact there is “no defence” for any words spoken in your “own home”.
He also claimed there was no exception in the legalisation to private conservations which is why the legislation was “so extreme”.
He continued: “So you could make a joke around the dinner table and if the wrong person overhears you, they could report that to the police.”
Mr Lesh said it was “unheard of” for private conservations to be reported to the police.
He claimed the nature of a hatred law would be aimed at “preventing hatred being stirred up in a crowd, on the internet or something which would be broadcasted in public.”
Mr Lesh said the new law could also catch you out if you were to say something privately which was subsequently recorded and found by the police.
READ MORE: Andrew Marr makes bombshell claim about Scottish Independence
The Adam Smith Institute academic was the co-signer of a letter along with former SNP depute leader Jim Sillars, human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell and Simon Calvert, deputy director of The Christian Institute, who have urged Mr Yousaf to drop this part of the legislation.
The letter said: “Rather than introducing wide-ranging and unpredictable stirring-up laws, with all the attendant risk and controversy, we suggest that you instead bolster the implementation of laws already on the statute book.
“You would be commended for acknowledging the problems with part two of the Hate Crime Bill and abandoning the ‘stirring up’ offences.
“Without these controversial provisions, other aspects of the bill would achieve broad support.”
Nicola Sturgeon’s independence dreams dealt huge blow [REVEAL]
Boris stands firm as policy paper exposes plan for creation of Army [LATEST]
Health Secretary to STAND DOWN after Scottish care home chaos [INSIGHT]
The group said it did “not doubt the Government’s good intentions” in bringing forward legislation, but it added it had “grave reservations about the draft ‘stirring up of hatred’ provisions in part two”.
Simon Calvert, a spokesperson for Free to Disagree Campaign, added: “Mr Lesh is right to express alarm at this dangerous legislation.
“From church sermons to comedy skits to the words you speak at your own dinner table, nothing will be safe from the reach of this proposed law.
“We’ve said all along, that if you invite someone into your home who takes objection to your views, they could call the police and accuse you of abusive language and stirring up hatred in your own family.
“No wonder so many organisations have warned about the chilling effect the law will have on free speech, campaigns and routine political discourse.”
The controversial legislation has also already faced criticism from the Scottish Police Federation, the Faculty of Advocates, Catholic Church in Scotland and the Law Society of Scotland.
A similar act known as Offensive Behaviour at Football Act was introduced in 2012 and made it a criminal offence for football fans to discriminate against certain traits such as religion, ethnic identity, class, or region at matches.
However, it was scrapped in 2018 following severe concerns over freedom of speech and claims that it unfairly targeted Scottish football fans.
In response to the concerns, a Scottish Government spokesperson said: “Offensive views are not covered in any way in the Hate Crime and Public Order (Scotland) Bill and the Bill does not seek to stifle criticism or rigorous debate in any way.
“People can express controversial, challenging or offensive views as long as this is not done in a threatening or abusive way that is intended or likely to stir up hatred.
“The Bill includes explicit provisions on protection of freedom of expression.
“England, Wales and Northern Ireland all have laws in place criminalising stirring up hatred in relation to religion and sexual orientation while Northern Ireland’s law also covers disabilities.
“The law should protect vulnerable groups and minorities and this Bill – which follows an independent, judge-led review and is backed by a number of organisations – will increase confidence in policing to those communities affected by hate crime. We will continue to engage with key stakeholders as the Bill progresses through Parliamentary scrutiny.”
Source: Read Full Article