The requirement for ‘intent’ in the Hate Crime Bill is not as straightforward as Yousaf implies – retired Sheriff

This letter appeared in The Times newspaper on Tuesday 3 November 2020.


It is unfortunate that Humza Yousaf concludes that for the purposes of the hate crime bill that “the law in Scotland would require an intent to stir up hatred. If there is no such intent no offence will be committed.”

He will no doubt be aware that juries in Scotland are given the standard direction that “so far as intent is concerned you cannot look into a man’s mind. You examine what he is proved to have done and you are entitled to draw the necessary inference of intent from his actions”.

Anyone unfortunate enough to be charged with a “hate crime” resulting from a domestic conversation will not know until a jury returns its verdict whether the necessary intent is found to have been present.

That he is now sitting in the dock, having undergone the whole stress of the criminal process, while his domestic conversation is explored in evidence does not appear to enter the equation.

Kevin Drummond, QC Ret’d sheriff of Lothian and Borders

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