Police officers victims in almost quarter of hate crime reports, Yousaf says

The First Minister was questioned about the new law by Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross at Holyrood.

Police Scotland officers were victims in almost a quarter of hate crime reports, Humza Yousaf says PA Media

Police officers have been the victims of almost a quarter of reports under Scotland’s new hate crime law, the First Minister said.

Humza Yousaf told of the “outrageous abuse” police face as he came under fire again from the Conservatives over the legislation.

Tory leader Douglas Ross said the law, which came into force at the start of April, results in police officers being “pulled from other parts of the service” to deal with complaints.

Almost 9,000 complaints were received by Police Scotland in the first two weeks of the Act’s operation, and Ross said “40 officers a day have been brought in on overtime” to deal with them.

Raising the issue during First Minister’s Questions at Holyrood on Thursday, Ross told Yousaf: “When we opposed the Hate Crime Act, Scottish Conservatives warned the legislation would overburden our already overstretched police.”

Citing Calum Steele, the general secretary of the International Council of Police Representative Associations who has branded the law a “hate crime farce”, Ross accused the First Minister of being “unwilling to accept the failures of your Bill and listen to the voice of police officers”.

But Yousaf responded: “When it comes to hate crime, almost a quarter of the hate crime reports victims are police officers.

“Not only that, from the statistics we have to hand, many of them suffer the most outrageous abuse, some of that directed because of prejudice in relation to somebody’s sexual orientation, sometimes in relation to their race.”

While legislation was already in place against stirring up racial hatred, the Hate Crime and Public Order Scotland Act expanded such protections to other groups, including the elderly, the disabled and LGBT Scots.

First Minister Humza Yousaf accused the Tories of spreading ‘disinformation’ about the new law.PA Media

The Tories opposed the legislation while it was going through Parliament and have spoken out about its impact on “overstretched” police, as well as raising concerns about freedom of speech.

Ross said: “We said at the very beginning this Act would put free speech at risk.”

Yousaf said “of the 8,984 hate crime complaints that were made to Police Scotland in the first couple of weeks of April, the vast majority, at least 95%, have been deemed not to be crimes”.

Police Scotland figures show 453 hate crimes were recorded from those reports – with 240 in the first week the legislation was in force and 213 in the second.

The First Minister insisted: “This idea that somehow there would be mass criminalisation of people for simply their opinion, or being insulting, or being offensive, that did not materialise.”

He praised Police Scotland for the “incredible job they have done” despite the “disinformation” he said had been spread about the legislation by the Conservatives.

Yousaf hit out at the Tories – who lost a vote in Holyrood on Wednesday calling for the Act to be repealed – saying: “If the Hate Crime Act didn’t exist, with the stroke of a pen it would have removed protection against stirring up hatred for those who suffer racist abuse, for those who suffer antisemitism, for those who suffer Islamophobia, for those who suffer homophobia, transphobia, those who suffer abuse because of their disability.”

He branded this a “reckless and frankly unforgivable approach” as he accused the Conservatives of being “more interested in gaining shoddy tabloid headlines than actually protecting people from hatred”.

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