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News release: Passing of pardons bill welcomed by LGBTI charity

Scottish LGBTI (lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and intersex) equality charity the Equality Network welcomes the expected passing today by the Scottish Parliament of the bill that pardons people convicted of the old discriminatory offences of sex between men. The Historical Sexual Offences (Pardons and Disregards) (Scotland) Bill has its final stage 3 debate in the Parliament this afternoon.

Tim Hopkins, Director of the Equality Network, said: “We very much welcome the Parliament passing this bill. This is concrete recognition of the huge harm that was done to people who were prosecuted or lived under these old laws. Together with the First Minister’s public apology in the Parliament in November, the message is that Scotland has changed for good, and that discrimination is no longer acceptable.

“The next stage will be to implement and publicise the new law. Publicity will be crucial so that all those affected by these historical convictions get to hear about it.

“LGBTI people continue to face prejudice and hostility, and there is much more to do. We look forward to continuing to work with the Scottish Government, on the forthcoming reform of the Gender Recognition Act for trans people, and other work to address homophobia, biphobia and transphobia, and to promote fairness for all.”

The bill states clearly that these historical convictions were wrong and discriminatory, and the First Minister made a public apology for this on behalf of the Scottish Government when the bill was published on 7th November last year. The bill gives a formal pardon for these convictions where the activity would not be a crime today. The pardon applies both posthumously to people who are no longer living, and to those who are living. The bill also enables people who have one of these convictions on their records to have it removed (called a “disregard”), so that it no longer shows up on criminal record checks for employment or volunteering.

Tim Hopkins added: “The bill does a better job than the equivalent legislation in the rest of the UK. Unlike that legislation, it provides an automatic pardon to people who are still alive, and also covers all the old discriminatory offences, including where men were prosecuted simply for chatting up other men – called ‘importuning’.”

Until 1981, all sexual activity between men was a criminal offence in Scotland. Legislation in 1980 (which came into effect in 1981) decriminalised sex between men over the age of 21 (the age of consent for sex between men and women, or between two women, was then 16). In 1994 the age of consent for sex between men was reduced from 21 to 18, but it was not until 2001 that the discrimination was removed, by equalising the age of consent at 16.

Prior to these changes, men were prosecuted for activity with another man that would have been legal then between a man and a woman, and that is legal today between two men. This included consensual sexual activity in private, and acts such as kissing another man in a public place, or just chatting up another man in a public place.

The Equality Network estimates that the total number of these historical discriminatory convictions in Scotland runs into thousands, and that there are hundreds of men alive today with such convictions on their records.

 

Sex between women was never criminalised in this way in Scotland, and the same rules applied to it as applied for sex between a man and a woman.

It is likely to take some months for the Scottish Government to put in place the regulations that will set out how criminal records will be updated when a disregard is granted, so it is expected that the new law will come into effect towards the end of the year.

ENDS

For further information, please contact the Equality Network’s Director Tim Hopkins on 07747 108 967 or tim@equality-network.org

Notes to editors:

1. The Equality Network is a national charity working for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) equality and human rights in Scotland:
www.equality-network.org

2. The First Minister’s statement of apology can be found here: http://www.parliament.scot/parliamentarybusiness/report.aspx?r=11174&i=101857

3. More information about the bill and consideration of it by the Parliament’s Equalities and Human Rights Committee, can be found here: http://www.parliament.scot/parliamentarybusiness/CurrentCommittees/106817.aspx

Equality Network welcomes Lord Bracadale’s report on hate crime law

The Equality Network, the Scottish LGBTI (lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and intersex) equality charity, welcomes the publication today of Lord Bracadale’s independent review of hate crime legislation.

Tim Hopkins, Director of the Equality Network, said: “We welcome the report, and we hope that the Scottish Government will soon introduce a bill to update the law. We are pleased at the recommendation to update the existing law on hate crimes that target transgender people and those that target intersex people, recognising the difference. And we welcome the proposal for a new offence to deal with the stirring up of hatred through threatening or abusive conduct. This will fill a gap created by the repeal of the non-football related provisions of the Offensive Behaviour at Football Act. Changing the law is not the whole answer though; more needs to be done to further improve responses by police, prosecutors and courts, and to encourage people to report crimes to the police.”

The Equality Network’s Scottish LGBTI hate crime report 2017 found that 64% of lesbian, gay and bisexual people in Scotland have experienced hate crime. For transgender people the figure is 80%, and for intersex people 77%. Nine out of ten LGBTI people who had experienced hate crime had experienced it more than once, and a third of them, more than ten times. 71% did not report any of these crimes to the police.  Of those who did report hate crimes, many were not satisfied with the responses of the criminal justice system.

The Equality Network worked closely with Patrick Harvie on his hate crime member’s bill, which became the Offences (Aggravation by Prejudice) (Scotland) Act 2009, but the organisation has been calling for some years for further review and updating of hate crime law.

ENDS

For further information, please contact the Equality Network’s Director Tim Hopkins on 07747 108 967 or tim@equality-network.org  

Notes to editors:

1.    The Equality Network is a national charity working for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) equality and human rights in Scotland:
www.equality-network.org

2.    Lord Bracadale’s report can be found here: http://www.gov.scot/Resource/0053/00535892.pdf

3.    The Equality Network’s Scottish LGBTI hate crime report 2017 can be found here: https://www.equality-network.org/resources/publications/policy/scottish-lgbti-hate-crime-report/

Latest Equality Network consultation responses now online

A key part of what we do is working to influence and improve public policy on LGBTI equality in Scotland. Equality Network’s most recent responses to Scottish Government consultations can now be found in our new Consultation Responses page.

You can visit the page here: https://www.equality-network.org/our-work/policyandcampaign/consultation-responses/

If you would like to find out more please contact Hannah Pearson, our Policy Coordinator, on hannah@equality-network.org

Update about the EU referendum

EU and Scottish flags

On Thursday 23rd June 2016, people in Scotland voted, by a majority of 62% to 38%, to remain part of the European Union. Every one of the 32 council areas in Scotland voted to stay in the EU. However, the UK as a whole voted to leave the EU.

Nicola Sturgeon has since said that the Scottish Government will do all it can to protect Scotland’s place within the EU, including the possibility of a second independence referendum for Scotland.

For a long time now, there will be uncertainty about the UK’s international relationships and future, and about the future of Scotland within the UK.

Two of the immediate concerns for LGBTI people are these:

Firstly, the Equality Network works for equality and human rights for all LGBTI people in Scotland – people of all nationalities and ethnicities. Our staff, volunteers and members include citizens of different EU and non-EU countries, and we would be much the poorer without that diversity. We will continue to strongly support Scotland’s openness and welcome for diverse people.

We are very concerned about the reports of an increase in racist abuse and attacks since Friday, apparently motivated by the referendum result. The reports we have seen so far have been from England, but this may be happening in Scotland also. We urge anyone who experiences or witnesses any kind of hate incident to report it to Police Scotland, by phoning 101 (or 999 if someone is in danger), or online here:
http://www.scotland.police.uk/contact-us/hate-crime-and-third-party-reporting/

We very much value our partnerships with LGBTI people and organisations in the rest of Europe, including Europe-wide organisations like ILGA-Europe and TGEU, and we will continue to work to strengthen those partnerships.

Secondly, concern has been expressed (for example in Saturday’s Daily Record) about the future of our equality and human rights legal protections. Britain’s gender reassignment and sexual orientation equality laws were originally introduced as requirements of EU law. But they are part of British law – the Equality Act 2010 – and are now stronger than the EU requires. Most of the Equality Act is not devolved to Scotland.

In our view, the Equality Act needs to be strengthened and improved, but there is a danger that the UK Government might weaken it. For the past 18 years, the Equality Network has called for equality law to be fully devolved to Scotland, because we think we would then have better and more appropriate law. We will continue to call for that, and to call for improvements to the Equality Act to fully cover gender identity, sex characteristics, and intersectional discrimination, and we will of course oppose any weakening of the law.

The European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) is not a treaty of the EU. It is a treaty of the Council of Europe – an older and larger organisation of 47 European countries from Iceland to Russia, including many non-EU countries. There is a serious risk that the UK Government will attempt to remove the UK from the Convention, and we will continue to strongly oppose that.

The protections of the ECHR are built into the UK Human Rights Act, and also into the Scotland Act, which is the constitution of the Scottish Government and Parliament. If the Human Rights Act is abolished by the UK Government, the Scottish Parliament can re-instate it for Scotland’s devolved purposes. We are confident that the Scottish Parliament would refuse to give consent for the Scotland Act to be amended to remove the ECHR-related protections.

If you have any questions or concerns about how the referendum result might affect LGBTI people in Scotland, please email us on en@equality-network.org. We will do our best, bearing in mind the current uncertainties, to answer.

Tim Hopkins
Director

Statement about EU referendum: UK has voted to leave; Scotland backs Remain

EU and Scottish flagsIn yesterday’s referendum, every one of the 32 council areas in Scotland voted to remain in the EU. Overall, Scotland voted by 62% to 38% in favour of remaining in the EU:
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-scotland-politics-36599102

However, the UK as a whole voted in the referendum to leave the EU. Overall, Leave received 52% of the UK’s votes, while 48% voted in favour of Remaining in the EU:
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-36615028

 Tim Hopkins of the Equality Network stated: “To our friends in other European countries, in the EU and the rest of Europe, we promise to continue to work with you so that together we can continue to promote LGBTI equality right across Europe.”

We will keep monitoring the situation and update here in due course, as more information becomes available.