Legislation on hate crime offences and offences aggravated by prejudice should be consolidated, the Law Society of Scotland said today.

The call came ahead of a Scottish Parliament debate today on a Government motion on eradicating hate crime and prejudice. In a briefing to MSPs, the Society argues that further evaluation of the impact of the legislation would be welcome, "in particular an assessment of the charges reported by the police which were prosecuted as alleged offences under the legislation, and where alternative offences were libelled or specified (i.e. under common law or alternative statutory provisions); how often prosecutions are successful; and further analysis of disposals for offences under the legislation". Consolidation, it continues, would assist ease of use and simplicity of reference.

Michael Clancy, director of law reform at the Society, commented: “Tackling hate crimes taking place in communities across Scotland is essential and it is important to ensure that there is clarity in our law to be able to identify these types of crimes.

“There is a significant amount of legislation passed by both the Scottish and UK Parliaments aimed at preventing and eradicating hate crime and prejudice and we think there would be considerable benefit in bringing them together within a single piece of legislation which would provide clarity, assist with easy identification of the relevant offences and protections afforded, and improve access to justice.”

He added: “Currently there are several pieces of legislation on prejudice relating to race, religion, disability, sexual orientation and transgender identity. However there is no statutory aggravation for offences which may be aggravated by prejudice on the grounds of age or gender. In addition to consolidating offences, any review of the law could consider the option of having one piece of legislation on aggravated offences and could also include aspects that aren’t currently covered.

“Consolidation would assist with post-legislative scrutiny. It would be useful to know where cases were reported and prosecuted under the legislation, and also if alternative charges were used instead, under the common law, as this would give us an indication of how the legislation is being used in practice. It would be useful to know how many cases have been successful and the decisions taken by the courts on whether the accused was sentenced to serve a prison sentence, put on probation, given a community payback order or a fine, or any other disposals.”

Click here to view the full briefing.