An open letter to:
- Kenny MacAskill MSP, Scottish Justice Secretary
- Lord Advocate, Frank Mulholland QC
- The Chief Constable of Police Scotland, Stephen House and
- The Equality & Human Rights Commission and Scottish Human Rights Commission
12 August 2014
Ineffective protections against hate crime
My partner and I are on the receiving end of vicious hate crime, because of our sexual orientation.
I had been led to believe that the criminal justice system would protect both my partner and myself from hate crime. However, despite the grandstanding that took place, heralding the introduction of hate crime legislation, by the Scottish Government, the Equality & Human Rights Commission and others, the law is a dud.
The reasons for this: first, the perpetrators of the hate crime are all under the age of 16, and are classified as children; and secondly, there is no effective monitoring of how the law protects victims of hate crime, allowing solutions to this problem to have been identified.
I have been branded a “Peedo” and a “Beast” in front of my own home. Our car windscreen has been smashed in. Stones, bricks and other missiles have all been thrown at our home, our property is subject to regular trespass and children will even come as far as the front door to bang and shout abuse. What is more disturbing, is that the children even solicited the support of wayward adults to assist in their campaign of terror, shouting “Beast, Beast, Beast” at me and my home.
The children concerned were charged and reported (through the children’s hearing system). I had hoped this would put an end to it. However, because they are under 16, they were free to continue the abuse, and to encourage others to abuse us too. They knew they would get away with it, which is why they continued, after being charged, reported and warned about their behaviour.
I have nothing but praise for my local police officers, who have been very supportive. However, they find that their hands are tied. The police simply do not have sufficient resources locally to be effective, despite hate crime being classified as a national priority. I also note that the Crown Office does not review the effectiveness of the legislation, and the important legal protection that the law is meant to bring.
Additionally, public policy considerations designed to promote the rights of the child – even if the children concerned are perpetrators of vicious abuse – trump those of the right of the victim to seek redress. This is deeply disappointing, because as a result, my partner and I are left without an effective remedy and are left to suffer further torment.
Notwithstanding our legal entitlement to protection from acts of homophobic abuse, harassment and vandalism, there is little the criminal or civil law can do to help us.
I am a qualified solicitor, and sought refuge in the civil law. I attempted to obtain an Interdict, with power of arrest and non-harassment orders against our abusers. However, even this route was blocked.
In order to take this action, I would have required the co-operation of the local social work department, and the police, in order to obtain the identities of the perpetrators of the abuse. That co-operation was refused owing to “child confidentiality”.
We also approached the local council community safety team at the City of Edinburgh Council for help. It is now four weeks and counting, but no response. They have done nothing to help us, nor have they offered any support. Yet, under the antisocial behaviour legislation, they could take action. So why haven’t they? In my view, it is down to a question of priorities, and upsetting their colleagues in either social work or the housing department is not a priority. A local council is highly unlikely to take court action against itself now, is it?
My partner and I are now looking to relocate away from Edinburgh. We have had enough. I hope that when we move, we get to enjoy the peace and quiet in our own home, and the freedom from abuse, harassment and vandalism, that we should expect.
I now expect you gentlemen to take decisive action, given our experience, to prevent anyone else having to endure this horrific torment.Yours faithfully Daniel Donaldson