OFFENCES (AGGRAVATION BY PREJUDICE) (SCOTLAND)
The UNISON Scotland response to the Justice Committee
and Equal Opportunities Committee regarding the Offences (Aggravation
By Prejudice) (Scotland) Bill
UNISON Scotland welcomes the Scottish Parliament's
Justice Committee and Equal Opportunities Committee call for
evidence on the general principles of the Offences (Aggravation
by Prejudice) (Scotland) Bill
We fully support the introduction of new legislation
that would create new statutory aggravations to protect victims
of crime who are targeted as a result of hatred of their actual
or presumed sexual orientation, transgender identity or disability.
Similar statutory aggravations already exist to protect individuals
and groups targeted on racial or religious grounds.
UNISON Scotland is opposed to the addition
of other categories such as gender and age as we believe this
would dilute the bill and detract from the focus of the legislation.
UNISON Scotland commends this proposed bill,
as it is significantly ahead of the existing English, Wales
and Northern Ireland legislation in the protection it would
bring on transgender identity.
UNISON is Scotland's largest trade union with over
160,000 members working in the public sector in Scotland. UNISON
Scotland welcomes the opportunity to contribute to the Scottish
Parliament's Justice Committee and Equal Opportunities Committee
call for evidence on the general principles of the Offences (Aggravation
by Prejudice) (Scotland) Bill.
UNISON is committed to working for LGBT rights.
We facilitate lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender members organisation
in UNISON, locally and nationally, to support each other, to identify
and challenge discrimination, to increase awareness of LGBT rights
and to campaign for change.
UNISON challenges discriminatory actions and campaigns
for a fair deal for disabled members. UNISON supports the Social
Model of Disability. We believe it is the way society organises
that creates barriers to inclusion and prevents disabled people
from taking an equal part in life. As a union we campaign on important
issues such as:
- Inaccessible workplaces
- Information systems that don't include disabled people's
- Negative attitudes and prejudices from employers
UNISON's priorities on disability are led by the
union's own disabled members. Our union is committed to taking
on the issues from those who know them best.
As a Union, UNISON believes that the equality strands
are a core part of our business and that we need to work in partnership
to challenge inequality and to secure change on behalf of our
We welcome the Bill which, for the first time provides
that either the motivation or demonstration of malice or ill-will
can be taken into account when sentencing for an offence aggravated
by prejudice. Our members believe that it is the motivation of
the offender which is important in sentencing. We acknowledge
that there is current provision for aggravation to be taken into
account on sentencing. There are, however, short-falls in current
sentencing. These include inconsistency in application, how the
aggravation is evidenced and lack of monitoring.
UNISON welcomes provisions for a single source of
evidence and the exclusion of the need for a specific or individual
victim to be identified.
There is anecdotal evidence from UNISON members
of under reporting of offences motivated by presumed LGBT status.
This is despite feedback from the Gay Police Association of improved
reporting of Hate crime through remote reporting schemes. UNISON
welcomes the remote reporting schemes and supports the continued
funding by all Police Forces in Scotland.
The provision of this new legislation, will not
in itself change attitudes towards prejudice. This requires an
information campaign and support service be available to victims
of prejudice. This should be supplemented by training for staff
working with the Procurator Fiscal and Scottish Court services.
We also welcome the publication of the report by
the "Hearts and Minds Agenda " Working Group, which
was published in February 2008. However, there is a need to build
the confidence of the LGBT community to address under reporting.
Sentencing of Aggravation by Prejudice cannot be
taken in a vacuum. In addressing the wider context of equality,
UNISON hopes that the message which is sent out to the people
of Scotland from this legislation is one step towards achieving
the vision set out in the Hearts and Minds Agenda report.
We recognise that the legislation also has the potential
to support the Public Sector Equality Duties and increase the
range of remedies and monitoring available for LGBT victims of
anti-social behaviour from tenants and owner occupiers.
UNISON notes that that the Sentencing Commission
report 2006, had the remit of improving consistency of sentencing
but failed to make any mention of the Working Group on Hate Crime
Report recommendations. We welcome that sentencing will still
be addressed by the judge rather than assigning a prescribed response
to these issues. We feel this is the best way to address consistency
issues. We recognise that this may not add to the sentence but
that the nature of the aggravation and how it has influenced sentencing
will be recorded.
UNISON also welcomes the costed improvements which
have been identified for the implementation of the monitoring
of the Bill and that both the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal
Service and the Scottish Court Services have agreed to pay for
this from existing funding.
UNISON supports the Bill as it currently stands.
We have reservations regarding including similar aggravations
in respect of age and gender for the following reasons:-
- The issue of gender has been a regular and high profile
feature of both administrations;
- inclusion of gender would, in our view, be a distraction
from the needs of two under-represented groups who have been
- effectively overlooked within the criminal justice system
- aggravated criminal offences against women are currently
being covered in the Sexual Offences (Scotland) Bill;
- It would detract from the excellent work on domestic abuse
that has been a positive feature of both administrations;
- We concur with the findings of the Scottish Parliament Working
Group on Hate Crime (2004) and in particular, Recommendations
1 and 3, Legislation.
- According to Help the Aged, analysis of crime figures in
2003, reveals that only about 2.7 per cent of older people
in Scotland have suffered a robbery or personal attack - significantly
fewer than in England and Wales.
- Physical attacks against older people in Scotland are very
rare but do generate an enormous amount of media publicity,
precisely because they are so rare and therefore shocking.
And this media spotlight has the effect of frightening older
- Crime surveys throughout the UK show that older people are
much less likely to experience violent crime than other groups.
- Scottish Police Forces are working through the Safer Scotland
campaign to reassure older people that crime here is less
of a threat than they might think and that they should not
allow the fear of it to inhibit their lives.
- As with gender, we concur with the findings of the Scottish
Parliament Working Group on Hate Crime (2004) and in particular,
Recommendations 1 and 3, Legislation.
Disabled and LGBT Scots continue to experience some
of the worst examples of intolerance and violence, and this Bill
will, if Parliament backs it, help make that kind of unacceptable
behaviour a thing of the past.
LGBT research is very difficult to carry out and
is usually done through anonymous surveys or interview in known
gay venues, which are attended by a particular section of the
LGBT community. The pattern of behaviour is that many LGBT people
will only attend these places at specific points in their life
which are related to age, relationships and being out to friends,
colleagues and perceived authorities. It is not necessary to have
a flamboyant lifestyle to be targeted for hate crime, it is motivated
by the perception of the perpetrator rather than the actions of
By supporting this Bill as it currently stands,
UNISON Scotland, in no way, is suggesting that crimes against
women and older people is any less serious than those crimes committed
against other groups in Scottish society. We have reservations,
however, about the inclusion of age and gender in this particular
piece of legislation and these reservations are reflected in the
Working Group Hate Crime report, published 2004. We do believe
that there is sufficient evidence to support Patrick Harvie's
contention that the two groups highlighted in his bill are more
vulnerable at present and require statutory recognition within
the criminal justice framework.
For Further Information Please Contact:
Matt Smith, Scottish Secretary
14, West Campbell Street,
Glasgow G2 6RX
Tel 0845 355 0845 Fax 0141 342 2835
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