Hate crime

I hate hate speech laws

I originally intended to observe that American universities’ anti-Israel protestors and Hamas terrorists deserve each other, because they’ve so much in common. They’re both vicious, authoritarian, fanatical, powered by antipathy and focused on either unachievable or pointless aims (even if Columbia did divest from Israel, the pittance withdrawn would have no effect on financial markets, much less on Gaza). But many commentators have decried the protestors chanting ‘From the Mississippi to the Pacific!’ as poorly informed, faddish, spoilt, pathetic and anti-Semitic. So rather than assess the logic of what I’d have called ‘woke-lam’, we’ll pivot elsewhere. On 1 May, the US House of Representatives passed the Antisemitism Awareness Bill by

When I was the victim of a transphobic hate crime

The question was direct and to the point, ‘Are you one of them blokes?’ With those six short words, I was the victim of blatant transphobia. We have been advised to report such attacks. ‘We need the stats,’ explained one transgender campaigner in 2018. That was in response to ‘hateful’ stickers which read ‘Female is a biological reality’ appearing in Edinburgh. This attack was personal and in my face. But if this was transphobia, I was in no danger. The woman who asked the question was in her 60s, laden down with groceries and she would have needed to stand on a box for it to be truly in my

Priti Patel must tread carefully when lecturing police on hate crime

Any gunslinging sheriff can tell you that if you shoot from the hip you may hit the target but not quite with the precision you wanted. Priti Patel, very much a minister to draw first and ask questions later, is in much this position with her challenge to the police establishment over the weekend on its policy of recording all non-crime hate incidents. Most of what she said is spot-on; but in two respects she may have to think a little more carefully. The problem with the present police policy, as Matthew Parris trenchantly pointed out in this week’s Spectator, is that even if you never break the law it

How to get a police record (without committing a crime)

I couldn’t quite believe it when first I read the newspaper subscriber’s letter. Columnists for the Times and Spectator do still get real letters, and this one from (shall we say?) Mr Jones had enclosed the copy of a letter he had written to a lady whom we shall call Mrs Smith. Mr Jones had read about the public protest she was leading last year against an Emmerdale episode in which a couple, after much agonising, choose to abort their Down’s syndrome baby. Mrs Smith has a Down’s syndrome child, whom she adores. Mr Jones’s letter to her defended the broadcaster’s right to show parents who make a different choice.

Feminists should fear the SNP’s hate crime bill

The SNP’s new hate crime legislation is bad news for women. Yet the sad reality is that too many feminists have failed to speak up about the importance of free speech – and now we may all end up paying the price. The legislation creates a new offence of ‘stirring up hatred’ on the grounds of religion, sexual orientation, age, disability, or transgender identity. But while it provides a power for Scottish Ministers to make regulations adding the characteristic of sex to this list, for now, sex is not included. This leaves women like me, who don’t agree with the emerging gender identity ideology, in danger of being targeted. It is also not hard to spot the inconsistency

Is making misogyny a hate crime really a victory for women?

Misogyny will now be recorded as a hate crime by police. But is this really the victory for women’s rights that campaigners are claiming it to be? It’s absolutely right, of course, that the law is bolstered so that incidents against women are taken seriously by the police. But the wording of the policy is disappointingly woolly, relying heavily on what the victim perceives as the motivation for the crime. Speaking in the House of Lords, Home Office minister Baroness Williams said that from the Autumn:  ‘We will ask police forces to record and identify any crimes of violence against the person… where the victim perceives it to have been motivated

Will the SNP finally see sense on its flawed Hate Crime Bill?

The saga of the SNP’s Hate Crime Bill is drawing to a conclusion. This week, Holyrood will cast a decisive vote on the embattled bill. Introduced just ten months ago, it seeks to consolidate existing hate crime laws and create new offences on the ‘stirring up of hatred’ against certain groups. These proposals would make ‘threatening or abusive’ behaviour which ‘stirs up hatred’ on the grounds of age, disability, religion, sexual orientation, transgender identity and variations in sex characteristics a criminal offence, punishable by up to seven years in prison, an unlimited fine or, for the extremely unfortunate, both. The proposals have proved highly controversial and understandably so. In our society,

The creeping criminalisation of causing offence

At a time when resources are scarce, the Merseyside Constabulary must have thought long and hard about its recent advertising campaign: a stern message to the people of the Wirral. ‘Being offensive,’ it declared, ‘is an offence.’ The slogan was put on a van along with text urging the public to inform on transgressors. Four officers posed beside it for a photograph, as if standing ready to enforce its orders. The police only recognised their error after a public outcry. ‘We would like to clarify,’ said Superintendent Martin Earl, ‘that “being offensive” is not in itself an offence.’ On its own, the incident is merely an embarrassment, but it represents

Police hate crime campaign backfires

Is being offensive an offence? Some of those at Merseyside police who are tasked with upholding the law think so.  Over the weekend, officers from the force posed in front of an electronic billboard telling passers-by that ‘We will not tolerate Hate Crime on any level’. The warning displayed behind the masked officers also told members of the public that ‘being offensive’ is indeed a crime. Now, it seems, Merseyside police has changed its mind. ‘We would like to clarify that being offensive is not in itself an offence’, said a statement put out by superintendent Martin Earl: ‘A message on an ad van and social media this weekend by the Local Policing Team on the

The unintended consequences of the Macpherson report

Sir William Macpherson of Cluny has died. His obituaries praise him for his 1998 inquiry into the Stephen Lawrence case. His report did indeed shed light on the failure of the police to catch the young man’s killers. It has had, however, a profound and bad effect on our law. The report’s recommendations redefined a racist incident: ‘A racist incident is any incident which is perceived to be racist by the victim or any other person.’ This definition means that absolutely anything in the world could be a racist incident, because it relies wholly on what a complainant ‘perceives’. The definition’s use of the word ‘victim’ also implies acceptance that

The SNP was wrong to back down to the transgender mob

The SNP’s hate crime bill has done plenty of damage to the party’s credibility. But it seems the party leadership is determined to make matters even worse. The Scottish government has announced that it will withdraw an amendment to the bill that would have permitted free speech on transgender issues. This move, a capitulation to activists, puts fears about the legislation back at an all-time high. The trans debate is already one in which it is difficult to speak out for fear of being abused, so providing for free speech on this topic is critical. Failing to do so could leave people, and women in particular, open to accusations of

Do we really need a football hate crime police officer?

Marcus Rashford is right when he says the racist abuse he has received is ‘humanity and social media at its worst’. And it is right too that police take action against those who target football players like him because of the colour of their skin. But is it wise to appoint a dedicated hate crime officer based in a football unit, as West Midlands Police have done? The argument for doing so is not convincing. Why? Because when the abuse levelled at footballers goes too far, police have already shown they can be swift to act. Greater Manchester Police is investigating the latest racism directed at Rashford, and it would come

The SNP may never recover from its bungled Hate Crime Bill

The SNP has, until recently, looked unassailable. But amidst the drama surrounding the Alex Salmond inquiry, could a backlash to one of the party’s headline policy proposals sink the unsinkable? Opposition to the SNP’s proposed hate speech law is clearly growing. The Holyrood government assumed that pushing through the hate speech component of its Hate Crime and Public Order Bill, published in April 2020, would be plain sailing. It would probably attract the middle-class progressives who traditionally supported the SNP; it also looked fairly easy to sell to ordinary Scots as a technical updating of the law inspired by a carefully-drafted official report from a Court of Session judge. Any opposition from free

Was what I said on Facebook really ‘hate speech’?

Facebook has been accused of failing to combat extremism and hate-speech among its users. But as I found out this week, sometimes it does far too much to take down controversial opinions. Coffee House recently published an article by me with the headline ‘Michael Parkinson is right: men are funnier than women’. In the piece, I argued that men are more adapted to and adept at humour because they are less grounded in reality and more at home with incongruence. I said that because humour is often based on cruelty and schadenfreude it is also suited to the typically more aggressive male mindset. In short, I said that men and women were

Will my kids report me for hate speech?

When Humza Yousaf, the SNP’s cabinet secretary for justice, announced that his new Hate Crime Bill would remove the ‘dwelling exemption’ in the Public Order Act 1986, people were understandably horrified. As things stand, you cannot be prosecuted for stirring up racial hatred because you’ve said something inflammatory about race or religion in the privacy of your own home. But that’s far too wishy-washy for Yousaf. Not only does he want to enlarge the number of ‘protected’ groups, he also wants the new speech restrictions to apply in people’s homes. Henceforth, Big Brother will be watching you in the kitchen and the bedroom. If Humza Yousaf has his way, there

Could possession of the Bible become an offence in Scotland?

For the Scottish National party, the phrase ‘nanny state’ is not so much a criticism as an aspiration. This is the party that wanted to assign a state guardian to every child born in Scotland through its ‘named person’ scheme, only to be thwarted by the Supreme Court. Under Nicola Sturgeon’s leadership, there have been repeated attempts to regulate the eating and drinking habits of people, including proposed bans on two-for-one pizza deals and minimum pricing on cheaper alcoholic drinks. It makes sense, then, that the party’s paternalism should extend to the question of free speech. Scotland’s new Hate Crime and Public Order Bill was ostensibly proposed to repeal outdated

We’re facing a tsunami of censorship

It’s open season on mavericks and dissenters at the moment. If you publicly challenge any of the sacred nostrums of the social justice left and you work in a school, a college, a university, an arts company, a public broadcasting organisation, a tech company, a charity, a local authority or, indeed, Whitehall, you are at risk of being cancelled. How do I know? Because in February I set up the Free Speech Union to protect those being targeted in this way and in the past month we’ve been contacted by people in all of these fields who have either been fired, suspended or are ‘under investigation’ for having said or

A rabbi stabbed, but no hate crime?

A mystery has occurred. In The Affluent People’s Republic of North London, a rabbi was stabbed on the street multiple times by a knifeman. Rabbi Alter Yaakov Schlesinger was rescued by two builders and a Deliveroo driver and is now in hospital, where hopefully he will recover. Apparently no robbery was attempted. The police, however, have said that this was not a terrorist incident, thus suggesting – by extension – it was also not a hate crime. A crime of love, or indifference, then? Who knows? All a mystery. A familiar mystery.

Scotland’s new ‘hate speech’ rules are a modern blasphemy law

It is 178 years since the last recorded charge of blasphemy in Scotland, against the Edinburgh bookseller Thomas Paterson for ‘exhibiting placards of a profane nature’ in his shop window in 1842. One of those placards announced that ‘Paterson & Co (of the Blasphemy Depot, London)… Beg to acquaint infidels in general and Christians in particular that… [we] will sell all kinds of printed works which are calculated to enlighten, without corrupting — to bring into contempt the demoralising trash our priests palm upon the credulous as divine revelation — and to expose the absurdity of, as well as the horrible effects springing from, the debasing god-idea.’ For good measure

Is hate crime really on the rise?

The Guardian ran a story on its website today headlined: ‘Hate crimes doubled in England and Wales in five years.’ Alarming if true, but is it? The story is based on some data released by the Home Office today which, on the face of it, does appear to show the number of hate crimes increasing. The number of hate crimes recorded by the police in England and Wales in 2018-19 was 103,397, up from 94,121 in 2017-18, a rise of ten per cent. But drill down into the report, and the picture becomes more hazy. The word doing most of the work here is ‘recorded’. Yes, the number of recorded