Stonewall Scotland is disappointed the Scottish Government failed to make hate crime legislation a priority in its legislative programme today.
The law as it stands sends the message that attacks based on homophobia, transphobia or disability are somehow less serious than those motivated by racial or religious hatred.
Stonewall Scotland's Director, Calum Irving, said: "We are disappointed that despite manifesto commitments from the SNP, Lib Dems and Greens, Scotland is once again being allowed to fall behind the rest of the UK in terms of hate crime legislation.
" A modern Scotland should be a country which makes clear that anti-gay hate is wrong and will be tackled with the full force of the law.
"We welcome the Government's announcement of reform of sexual offences today but would urge the Government to find the earliest opportunity to legislate against the anti-gay attacks that are still too prevalent in Scotland today."
Notes to editors:
1. In 2004 a Scottish Executive Working Group recommended anti-gay hate crime legislation was introduced - but last year the Executive announced it would not follow the recommendation.
2. The Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) defines hate crime as "a crime where the perpetrator's prejudice against any identifiable group of people is a factor in determining who is victimised."
3. In England and Wales , Section 146 of the Criminal Justice Act 2003, which came into effect in April 2003, gives courts the power to impose tougher sentences for offences motivated or aggravated by the victim's sexual orientation. Where an attack was motivated by hostility or prejudice based on disability or sexual orientation, the judge must treat this as an aggravating factor, and state in open court any extra elements of the sentence given for the aggravation. These powers were used for the first time when the killers of south London barman Jody Dobrowski were sentenced to 28 years imprisonment.
4. In Scotland , the offence of racially aggravated harassment was introduced in the Crime and Disorder Act 1998. The same Act includes a provision for the courts to increase the sentence when any criminal offence is aggravated by racial prejudice. The Criminal Justice ( Scotland ) Act 2003 includes a similar provision for offences aggravated by religious prejudice.
5. In the last calendar year in the Lothian and Borders area, there were more than twice as many reported incidents of homophobic hate crime as faith based incidents - 75 homophobic incidents compared to 36 faith based. But there is a statutory aggravation for faith based hate crimes, and none for those based on sexual orientation.
For media enquiries in the first instance please contact Stonewall Scotland on 0131 474 8019 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. If you have an out of office media enquiry please call 07870 650 662.