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Last Updated: Tuesday, 15 January 2008, 12:48 GMT
Ministers back gay hate crime law
Gay men in bar

The law on hate crime in Scotland is to be widened to protect the gay community and disabled people.

The proposals, put forward by Green MSP Patrick Harvie, have been backed by the Scottish Government.

They should win the approval of parliament with the backing of the Liberal Democrats, bringing Scotland into line with the rest of the UK.

But the Tories criticised the move, saying it would make "some more equal than others" in the eyes of the law.

Mr Harvie's Sentencing of Offences Aggravated by Prejudice (Scotland) Bill will be taken forward in early 2008.

We want to see a Scotland where these offences are made a thing of the past
Patrick Harvie
Scottish Green Party

It aims to strengthen the law to protect disabled people and those from the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered communities by extending statutory aggravations to cover crimes motivated by malice or ill will towards victims.

Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill said no-one should be targeted because of their sexual orientation or disability, adding: "While good government needs a clear vision, we must also deal decisively with immediate problems.

"To do otherwise would compromise public safety."

Mr Harvie said the justice system was oblivious to the motivation behind hate crimes against disabled people and the gay community.

Men walking with their arms round each other
The move would allow gay hate crimes to be monitored

The bill, he added, would allow records of such incidents to be kept for the first time, ensuring that the progress on reducing attacks could be monitored.

"We want to see a Scotland where these offences are made a thing of the past and where all Scots are treated with dignity and respect," said Mr Harvie.

Conservative justice spokesman Bill Aitken said attacks on gay people were serious issues already recognised by judges and sheriffs.

"In Scotland, we pride ourselves in the fact that we are all equal in the eyes of the law but some it now seems are more equal than others, which cannot be right," he said.

The bill has also been backed by the Scottish human rights commissioner, the Equality Network, the Association of Chief Police Officers Scotland and a number of Labour MSPs.

SEE ALSO
Homophobic killer jailed for life
12 Nov 07 |  Tayside and Central
Call to strengthen hate crime law
02 Oct 07 |  Scotland
Disabled hate crime law planned
06 Nov 07 |  UK Politics

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