Protecting LGBT people: the law

There are several laws in place to provide LGBT people with legal protection from homophobic and transphobic hatred.

The Offences (Aggravation by Prejudice) (Scotland) Act 2009

The Offences (Aggravation by Prejudice) (Scotland) Act 2009 gives courts the power to issue tougher sentences if offenders are found guilty of an offence motivated by homophobia or transphobia. This is known as an ‘aggravating factor’. Judges can only issue an enhanced sentence if there is sufficient evidence that the offence was motivated by hostility, or that the perpetrator demonstrated hostility, based on the victim’s sexual orientation or transgender identity. This is why it’s vital that police officers gather as much evidence as possible throughout an investigation to establish the homophobic or transphobic element of an incident.

Offensive Behaviour at Football and Threatening Communications (Scotland) Act 2012

The legislation aims to tackle abusive behaviour, be it from fans watching matches in a stadium, in the pub or commenting online. It sets out new protections which would help tackle homophobic or transphobic chanting at football matches.

The Equality Act 2010

The Equality Act 2010 says that public authorities, including the police service mustn’t discriminate against LGBT people, whether as victims, witnesses or suspects. Public authorities mustn’t discriminate against their LGBT officers or staff either.

The Equality Act also requires public services to proactively promote equality for LGBT people. This is known as the public sector equality duty. Public authorities have to regularly publish data to show how they’re doing this; this might for instance include publishing the number of homophobic and transphobic hate crimes and incidents recorded in the area or the proportion of LGBT victims satisfied with the service they received. More information about the Equality Act 2010 is available here.

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