JK Rowling vows to defy “ludicrous” new hate crime laws

JK Rowling has vowed to continue “calling a man a man” in defiance of controversial new SNP hate crime laws, which she branded “ludicrous”.

JK Rowling has vowed to continue “calling a man a man” in defiance of controversial new SNP hate crime laws, which she branded “ludicrous”.

As reported by the Telegraph, Rowling said she would not delete her social media posts, in which she has regularly argued that trans women are not women, to avoid being taken to court “under this ludicrous law”.

She said she would instead “do some more accurate sexing” after the legislation takes effect, despite predictions that LGBT campaigners plan to use it to target the Harry Potter author, who lives in Edinburgh.

Originally passed in 2021 by Holyrood, the Hate Crime and Public Order (Scotland) Act was pushed by the now-First Minister Humza Yousaf, who was then Justice Secretary, and broadens the “stirring up hatred” clauses of the Public Order Act 1986.

Activation of the Act was then delayed while Police Scotland tried to work out how a piece of legislation that FSU Scottish Advisory Council member Jamie Gillies describes as an “authoritarian mess” could be implemented on the ground. Two-and-half years later, in September 2023, the national police force set up a dedicated hate crime unit to help identify, record and prosecute the new crimes created by the Act, and began “training, guidance and communications planning”. The legislation will finally come into force on April Fool’s Day.

The FSU has written about the Act in more detail here, but the headline news is that it creates a criminal offence of “stirring up of hatred”, extending the existing offence of stirring up racial hatred to cover crimes motivated by prejudice based on the alleged victim’s protected characteristic(s), including age, disability, religion, sexual orientation, transgender identity or variations in sex characteristics.

To help people interpret the new prohibitions, Police Scotland’s website describes a hate crime as “any crime which is understood by the victim or any other person as being motivated, wholly or partly by malice or will towards a social group”.

Under the Act, offences will be considered “aggravated” if the offender demonstrates this subjectively perceived “malice and ill-will” towards the victim, and does so on the basis of the victim’s “membership or presumed membership” of a protected group. It will be up to Police Scotland’s officers to use their judgement to assess whether a “reasonable person” would find the reported conduct “threatening, abusive or insulting”.

Unlike the Public Order Act, Scotland’s hate crime legislation removes what’s known as the ‘dwelling defence’ (i.e., that an offence cannot be committed if both the defendant and the person threatened are in a private dwelling). This means that people can be prosecuted for stirring up hatred in their own home.

Unsurprisingly, concerns have been expressed that the legislation’s definition of a hate crime is too ambiguous, potentially leading to a chilling effect on freedom of speech, and a torrent of vexatious complaints being made to police.

In particular, gender critical feminists are concerned that anyone who dares to defend the need to exclude trans-identifying males from women-only spaces, or who objects to girls who are ‘boyish’ or attracted to members of the same sex being told they are ‘trans’, or who argues that gender reform conflicts with women’s sex-based rights, now risks being investigated by the police on suspicion of a ‘transphobic’ hate crime.

Joanna Cherry KC, an SNP MP and feminist who has been highly critical of the Scottish Government’s gender policies, has said she had “no doubt” that the new laws “will be weaponised against women exercising their right to freedom of speech”.

She has also suggested that trans campaigners will target JK Rowling. Although she did not mention the author by name, the MP said: “A cursory look at social media shows some of these activists already have one high-profile woman in their sights.”

On that note, a series of ‘third party reporting centres’ have also been established by Police Scotland, on the basis that victims or witnesses “sometimes… don’t feel comfortable reporting the incident to the police” and “might be more comfortable reporting it to someone they know”.

The nationwide network of walk-in snitching parlours are located everywhere from charities, council offices, mushroom farms (no, really), caravan sites and housing associations – Glasgow’s easily offended can even drop-in to ‘Luke and Jake’, an LGBT+ sex-shop where specially trained staff are available seven days a week to help you report a ‘hate crime’.

Needless to say, the FSU remains concerned that the new law will give officers carte blanche to question people for expressing lawful but dissenting, offensive or contentious views that those with particular protected characteristics – as well as the many activists who purport to speak on their behalf – happen to perceive as ‘hateful’.

We’re particularly concerned that if the police conclude no crime has been committed, they will nevertheless record the report as a ‘hate incident (non-crime)’, the Scottish equivalent of non-crime hate incidents (NCHIs).