Hate crime is the term used to describe behaviour which is both criminal and rooted in prejudice. Hate crime can be verbal or physical and can be online or face-to-face. It has hugely damaging effects on the victims, their families and communities.
Current hate crime legislation in Scotland allows any existing offence to be aggravated by prejudice in respect of one or more of the protected characteristics of race, religion, disability, sexual orientation and transgender identity.
Prejudice or hostility also lies at the heart of some other offences which are recognised as hate crimes. These include racially aggravated harassment and stirring up of racial hatred. The Hate Crime and Public Order (Scotland) Act 2021 consolidates, modernises and extends hate crime legislation in Scotland. It adds age as an additional characteristic and creates a new offence of ‘stirring up of hatred', that will apply in relation to all protected groups protected by current hate crime laws. The Act includes a regulation-making power to enable the characteristic of ‘sex' to be added to the lists of protected characteristics by regulations at a later date.