LGBT and Disability Rights Protected by New Law in Scotland

On 24 March 2010, the Offences (Aggravation by Prejudice) (Scotland) Act 2009 came into force. The Act, which was passed by the Scottish Parliament on 3 June 2009, creates new statutory offences to protect victims who are targeted because of their disability, sexual orientation or transgender identity.

Articles 1 and 2 of the Act provide that if a crime is motivated by malice and ill-will towards a victim because of his or her actual or presumed disability, sexual orientation or transgender identity, then it constitutes an offence “aggravated by prejudice”. Under the Act if an offence has been found to be “aggravated by prejudice”, the court must:

“(a) state on conviction that the offence is aggravated by prejudice relating to disability, sexual orientation or transgender identity,
(b) record the conviction in a way that shows that the offence is so aggravated,
(c) take the aggravation into account in determining the appropriate sentence, and
(d) state -
(i) where the sentence in respect of the offence is different from that which the court would have imposed if the offence were not so aggravated, the extent of and the reasons for that difference, or
(ii) otherwise, the reasons for there being no such difference.”

This legislation builds on pre-existing protections from hate crime in relation to race and religion or belief provided by the Crime and Disorder Act 1998 and the Criminal Justice (Scotland) Act 2003. The broadened protection of hate crime in the new Act brings Scotland in line with the rest of the United Kingdom, which already protects against crimes motivated by prejudice based on disability, sexual orientation or transgender identity.

Speaking about the recent development, ERT’s Executive Director Dimitrina Petrova said:

“Principle 7 of the Declaration of Principles on Equality states that ‘Any act of violence or incitement to violence that is motivated wholly or in part by the victim having a characteristic or status associated with a prohibited ground constitutes a serious denial of the right to equality. Such motivation must be treated as an aggravating factor in the commission of offences of violence and incitement to violence, and States must take all appropriate action to penalise, prevent and deter such acts’.

“Hate crimes are one of the most damaging manifestations of discrimination and can have devastating effects on their victims.

“Broadening the protection from hate crimes and bridging the legislative gap is a positive step for equality in Scotland. Yet further strengthening of the law is needed across the whole of the United Kingdom to ensure that aggravated offences motivated by other forms of prejudice, such as age and gender, do not carry on with impunity.”

To read the full text of the Offences (Aggravation by Prejudice) (Scotland) Act 2009, click here.