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SNP must withdraw hate crimes bill after Faculty of Advocates criticism

The SNP must u-turn on its "damaging and inept" hate crimes bill following a blistering attack by legal experts, according to the Scottish Conservatives.


Shadow justice secretary Liam Kerr made the call after the Faculty of Advocates published its response to Humza Yousaf's controversial draft Bill, which ended its consultation phase on July 24.


The professional body warned there is "no alternative but to reconsider" the Bill and warned it will trigger a "large number of prosecutions" with "no likelihood of being enforced" if the legal system was not prepared for it.

 

It goes on to say the bill's broad scope could cause “unfounded complaints” leading to the “invasion of privacy and domestic life” and the seizure of telephones and computers. 


The faculty commented that social media posts would fall foul of proposals as they stand on a "daily basis".


It joins the Scottish Police Federation, Catholic Church in Scotland and the Law Society of Scotland in raising concerns about the SNP’s legislation.

Scottish Conservative shadow justice secretary Liam Kerr said:


“Ever since the beleaguered justice secretary cobbled together this ill-fated draft Bill, groups from every area of Scotland's public life have warned that it is damaging and inept.


"The very principles of free speech itself are under threat.


"Genuine hate crime should be punished but this law goes too far.


"The fundamental flaws in the drafting, which seem to have been missed by Humza Yousaf, have been highlighted time and again by voices from across the political spectrum.


"These warnings from the faculty are another major setback for an ill-conceived piece of legislation.


"There is still time for the SNP to withdraw it and for Humza Yousaf to rethink the execution of his bill."

 

Ends

 

 

Notes for editors

 

The full response is found here:

http://www.advocates.org.uk/media/3414/hate-crime-and-public-order-bill-final-faculty-response-4-august-2020.pdf

 

Key quotes from the response include:

‘potentially criminalise a number of social media postings made on a daily basis’ Page 4.

 

‘If it is anticipated that criminal proceedings will be raised in such cases, then a large number of prosecutions could result. If this is not anticipated, the Faculty would question the rationale for legislation which has no likelihood of being rigorously enforced.’

 

extensive disruption to life and livelihood, and to the legitimate operations of businesses and institutions’ could be caused by malicious complaint. Page 18

 

And follows that there is a scope for unfounded complaints to cause:

‘invasion of privacy and domestic life, the seizure of telephones and computers, and the prolongation of disruption caused to people, businesses and institutions’ Page 19.

 

It concludes that there is ‘no alternative but to reconsider the draft bill’.

 

‘the Faculty has significant reservations about the proposed legislation… arising from the drafting of the Bill in terms of its breadth, and its restrictive effects on freedom of expression’ Page 10.

 

‘the terms of the proposed section 6 of the Bill risk augmenting the effect of factors active in society with the tendency to stifle or suppress free and lively debate’ Page 19.

 

‘concern that allegations that acts or words are expressions of ‘hate… “shutdown”, discussion of matters which are the subject of legitimate debate’ ‘these issues are not currently adequately reflected in the Bill’. Page 19.

 

SNP contact tracing failures probed following Aberdeen lockdown announcement

The Scottish Conservatives has said "questions will need to be answered" by the SNP over contact tracing following the Aberdeen lockdown announcement.  

 

After concerns emerged regarding the quality of a key element of the track and trace system, local MSP Alexander Burnett revealed that only 575 contact tracers were employed in Scotland on June 1.  

 

This is against the 2,000 the SNP said would be in post. 

 

The figures were obtained by the Scottish Conservatives, following reports that hospitality businesses in Aberdeen were adopting a “DIY” approach to contact tracing as no calls were being made from the central service.  

  

Aberdeenshire West MSP Alexander Burnett said:  

 

“The decision today to impose a further period of lockdown in Aberdeen is the right one in the circumstances, but a bitter blow to the city and its economy.

“However, questions will need to be answered about the operation of the track and trace system locally and the resources made available to support it.

 

"Recruiting just about a quarter of what the SNP government promised is a failure by any measure.

“The overwhelming priority now must be to suppress any community transmission of the virus, so the lockdown of Aberdeen can be ended at the earliest possible opportunity.”

 

Ends 

 

 

Notes for editors 

2,000 tracers were pledged for June 1. https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-52705457

Data from all health boards bar NHS Highland as at June 1 

 

Board

Contact tracers 1 June

Shetland

13

Orkney

10

Tayside

49

Fife

45

Grampian

129

Ayrshire & Arran

28

Western Isles

14

Borders

19

Dumfries & Galloway

41

Forth Valley

20

Greater Glasgow & Clyde

90

Lanarkshire

36

Lothian

11

Highland

Awaiting response

National Services Scotland

70

   
   

TOTAL

575

 

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