J.K. Rowling tests Scotland’s new hate crime law, makes comments related to trans women on X

Police in Scotland have stated that remarks by JK Rowling, in which she labeled notable transgender activists as “men,” will not be documented as a non-crime hate incident.

Rowling publicly dared the police to detain her in a series of messages on X, coinciding with the implementation of the contentious hate crime legislation in Scotland, which she criticized as being prone to misuse. She mentioned sex offenders claiming to be transgender and prominent transgender activists, referring to them all as “men.”

The police confirmed on Tuesday that Rowling’s statements were not criminal, following reports that over 3,000 complaints had been lodged under the new law within its first two days.

What is Scotland’s new hate crime law?

The Hate Crime and Public Order (Scotland) Act 2021 broadens statutory aggravations to include additional protected characteristics, such as age and transgender identity, and introduces a new offense for threatening or abusive actions intended to incite hatred based on these characteristics, punishable by up to seven years in prison.

Proponents of the law argue that it has a stringent prosecution standard, yet there are growing concerns about logging “non-crime hate incidents” that fall short of this standard and rely on the perception of the victim or an observer.

Police Scotland is reassessing its protocol for recording these incidents following a court of appeal decision in England that indicated such a policy might impact free speech.

Some complaints received by the police were about a 2020 speech by the first minister, Humza Yousaf, then justice secretary, addressing the dominance of white individuals in high public positions. The police confirmed that no crime or non-crime hate incident was recorded in this matter.

Siobhian Brown, the Scottish government’s community safety minister, mentioned on BBC Radio’s Good Morning Scotland that the surge in reports was due to “misinformation” and media attention, citing a “fake complaint” made under her name.

Brown emphasized that the extended “stirring up” offense sets a high bar for criminality, clarifying that the act aims to protect rather than limit free speech.

India Willoughby, a transgender woman mentioned in Rowling’s post and a presenter on Loose Women, criticized the decision by Police Scotland as “weak.”

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