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Online comments made by JK Rowling not recorded as non-crime hate incident, police confirms

Online comments made by Harry Potter author JK Rowling have not been recorded as a non-crime hate incident, Police Scotland has confirmed.

It comes after the force said no further action would be taken over social media posts made by the writer in response to Scotland’s controversial new hate crime laws.

A non-crime hate incident is recorded when a complaint does not meet the threshold for a crime but is perceived to be “motivated (wholly or partly) by malice and ill-will towards a social group”, according to Police Scotland guidance.

On Wednesday, a Police Scotland spokesperson said: “The circumstances have been assessed and will not be recorded as a non-crime hate incident.”

Campaigners gather outside the Scottish Parliament at Holyrood in Edinburgh, to mark the introduction of the Hate Crime and Public Order (Scotland) Act. The act consolidates existing hate crime legislation and creates a new offence of stirring up hatred against protected characteristics. Picture date: Monday April 1, 2024.
Image: A protest against the new act was held outside Holyrood on Monday. Pic: PA

The Hate Crime and Public Order (Scotland) Act came into force on Monday and aims to tackle the harm caused by hatred and prejudice, extending protections from abusive behaviour to people on grounds including age, disability, religion, sexual orientation and transgender identity.

Sex has been omitted from the act as a standalone bill designed to tackle misogyny is expected to be laid before the Scottish parliament at a later date.

Those who support the new laws insist they will make Scotland more tolerant.

More on Jk Rowling

But Rowling has publicly criticised the act, suggesting it erodes free speech as she dared police to arrest her if they believed her online comments were criminal.

Protesters outside Holyrood demonstrating against the new hate crime laws
Image: Protesters demonstrating against the new laws. Pic: Sky News
Campaigners gather outside the Scottish Parliament at Holyrood in Edinburgh, to mark the introduction of the Hate Crime and Public Order (Scotland) Act. The act consolidates existing hate crime legislation and creates a new offence of stirring up hatred against protected characteristics. Picture date: Monday April 1, 2024.
Image: Pic: PA

On Tuesday, a Police Scotland spokesperson said: “The comments are not assessed to be criminal and no further action will be taken.”

In response, Rowling posted on X: “I hope every woman in Scotland who wishes to speak up for the reality and importance of biological sex will be reassured by this announcement, and I trust that all women – irrespective of profile or financial means – will be treated equally under the law.”

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Row over Scotland’s hate crime laws explained

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What are Scotland’s new hate crime laws, and why are they controversial?

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On Wednesday morning, Scotland’s community safety minister Siobhian Brown refused to say whether Rowling’s comments could have been recorded as a non-crime hate incident.

Speaking to BBC Radio Scotland’s Good Morning Scotland programme, she said that would be an operational matter for the force.

Ms Brown also said she was “surprised” to receive a call from Police Scotland after a fake complaint was submitted anonymously in her name.

Campaigners gather outside the Scottish Parliament at Holyrood in Edinburgh, to mark the introduction of the Hate Crime and Public Order (Scotland) Act. The act consolidates existing hate crime legislation and creates a new offence of stirring up hatred against protected characteristics. Picture date: Monday April 1, 2024.
Image: Pic: PA

McCoist backlash

Rangers legend Ally McCoist has also faced backlash over comments made about the new laws.

Ahead of the Old Firm derby on Sunday, the former player turned football commentator said on TalkSport that he “along with 48,000 will be committing a breach of that hate bill in the particular Rangers v Celtic game we are all going to”.

However, McCoist has since announced he won’t be at the Scottish Premiership match and will instead be away with his family for a “couple of days”.

Police Scotland is yet to confirm how many alleged hate crime incidents have been reported since the act came into force at the start of the week.

Amid reports that around 3,800 complaints have been made, the Scottish Conservatives are warning that if it continues at that rate, Police Scotland may have to deal with more than 1.3 million alleged hate crime incidents in a year – more than four times higher than the total number of crimes recorded in Scotland in 2023, which was 302,076.

The Hate Monster. Pic: Police Scotland
Image: The ‘Hate Monster’ being used to advertise the new act. Pic: Police Scotland

The Scottish Tories intend to launch a petition against the new act in a bid to have it scrapped.

Hate crime act being ‘weaponised’

Russell Findlay MSP, shadow justice secretary for the Scottish Tories, said: “Humza Yousaf’s dangerous hate crime act is already being weaponised on an industrial scale by thin-skinned troublemakers, which is placing the biggest ever burden on Scotland’s police officers.

“Within 24 hours of it coming into force, Police Scotland has been inundated with complaints, many of them spurious nonsense from activists with an axe to grind.

“At this rate the number of hate complaints will overtake the number of real crimes that are recorded each year.

“Hardworking officers want to protect our communities, not waste precious time investigating every single perceived hate crime.

“The Scottish Conservatives warned this would be disastrous for the police and have a chilling effect on free speech.

“That’s why we’re launching a petition to give the people of Scotland the chance to send a message to Humza Yousaf and the SNP and tell them to repeal this law.”

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