Controversial Hate Crime Act to cost Justice system £1 million, with awareness-raising costs still unknown

Implementing Scotland’s controversial new Hate Crime Act will cost Scotland’s Justice system more than £1,000,000, not including costs for awareness-raising, documents show.

A freedom of information (FoI) response published by the Scottish Government today details the predicted costs for Police Scotland, the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service (COPFS), the Scottish Courts and Tribunals Service (SCTS) and other “justice partners” as the new law takes effect.

Estimates provided in an internal Draft Implementation Overview total £1,160,600 (one-off implementation costs: £100,000; recurring annual costs: £527,600; recorded data provisions: £488,000; convictions data provisions: unknown).

The document also provides estimated costs for “campaign marketing” and estimated “total costs”. However, these figures have been redacted by the Scottish Government.

Jamie Gillies, spokesman for the Free to Disagree campaign, which spearheaded opposition to controversial new ‘stirring up hatred’ offences in the Hate Crime Act, commented:

“It’s quite something that costs for this new, controversial legislation are already over a million pounds for the justice system. This legislation was always going to be costly. It will see ambiguous new stirring up hatred provisions inserted into Scotland’s febrile political climate.

“Of course, the other ‘costs’ we need to consider with this legislation are not monetary. They concern the potential chilling effect on public debate that could come with the new ‘stirring up’ offences. This is the impact we are most concerned about, and which we will be monitoring as the new law takes effect.”

Mr Gillies added:

“It is disappointing that the Scottish Government chose to redact awareness-raising cost estimates, and the overall estimated costs. Scottish taxpayers are footing the bill for this legislation. They have the right to know.”

The FoI release also reveals that Police Scotland expects to come under close scrutiny given the controversial nature of the legislation. It states:

“The high-profile nature of the Act, and the backlash to certain provisions during Bill scrutiny (i.e. the new stirring up hatred offences) means that implementation work is likely to be closely scrutinised by stakeholders and the media. We will likely receive lots of correspondence and FOIs on the topic of Bill implementation”.

And it underlines the importance of guidance to accompany the new ‘stirring up hatred’ provisions, thought to be open to abuse:

“The previous Cabinet Secretary for Justice agreed, during Parliamentary passage of the Bill, that the Explanatory Notes (published to sit alongside the Act) would be used to provide further information on the new stirring up hatred offences (i.e. examples of what would constitute an offence of stirring up hatred under the Act)”.

Mr Gillies added:

“Guidance to sit alongside the new stirring up hatred provisions is incredibly important. It will include ‘examples of what would constitute an offence of stirring up hatred’. Crucially, it must also include that which will not constitute an offence. I hope the Scottish Government will be working with the widest possible range of stakeholders on this. Free to Disagree and other groups that lobbied extensively on the Hate Crime Bill have yet to receive an invitation.”

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