We sent the following email to Baroness Kennedy, the Chair of the Misogyny and Criminal Justice in Scotland Working Group on 18th March 2021:
Dear Baroness Kennedy,
We are writing to ask if you would call on the Justice Secretary to use the powers of Hate Crime and Public Order Bill (Scotland) to add sex as a category now, before Parliament goes into recess and at least until the work of your group is concluded. While the argument for inclusion was made in Parliament last week, it was narrowly defeated on a whipped vote. Recent events have made this more, not less, pressing.
As you will be aware, last night, members of the House of Lords backed amendments to ensure that a trial in recording Hate Crime aggravated by a “hostility based on sex” was rolled out across England and Wales, to be informed by the successful Nottingham pilot. We understand you will be examining this trial in detail. It is concerning that, while Lord Bracadale based his recommendation to include sex in the Scottish Bill on the back of the findings from these trials, this was dismissed by the Cabinet Secretary.
The Scottish Crime and Justice Survey was also released this week: it shows a fall of 39% in overall crime in Scotland in the decade to March 2020 except for sexual offences against overwhelmingly female victims, which continue to rise. These figures do not account for lockdown, during which period we know crimes against women rose sharply.
When giving evidence to the Justice Committee many groups argued that adding sex would enable data to be collected and training undertaken. We believe that such data and findings would be valuable in informing the work of your group and potentially identifying those gaps in law which the Justice Secretary believes exist. In the event that your recommendation was to add sex, a vital year – and potentially longer – may be lost. We would add that while Mr Yousaf has pledged to abide by the findings and act swiftly, there is an election in May and he has no guarantee that he will be in a position to fulfill this obligation.
Adding sex now would reassure women worried about the potential loss of momentum. In light of all that has happened and information that continues to emerge, it may reassure women who feel, naturally, frightened and angry by the relegation of their safety by this administration, especially in light of the protection afforded to others. If women were visible in the current public information campaign on hate crimes it would both encourage women to report crimes and provide reassurance that such reports would be taken seriously, and send the vital message to perpetrators that such crimes will not be tolerated in Scotland.
We look forward to seeing the progress and the recommendations of the working group.
A copy of this letter has also been sent to Humza Yousaf, Cabinet Secretary for Justice.
Marion Calder, Trina Budge and Susan Smith, Directors
on behalf of For Women Scotland