THE enduring problem of how to deal with crimes rooted in hatred took a fresh twist during the last week when new recommendations were released that support expanding the criteria of hate crime legislation in some areas, but not so much in others.

Lord Bracadale was commissioned by the Scottish Government last year to examine whether the country’s hate crime laws are fit for purpose, and his findings have been held up as a win by some and a loss for others.

According to Lord Bracadale, Scotland’s hate crime laws should be brought together into one piece of legislation, and he recommends that new age and gender aggravations should be introduced. “Aggravations” are attached to other crimes, like assault or breach of the peace. Basically this means that a crime must take place in order for a hate-based aggravation to be recognised, but the hate in itself is not criminal on its own.

This has become a source of disappointment to feminist campaigners who wanted a standalone crime tackling misogyny introduced. A joint statement from Engender, Scottish Women’s Aid and Rape Crisis Scotland said: “Other nations and states have found that simply adding gender to a laundry-list of groups protected by hate crime legislation leads to underreporting, under-investigation, and under-prosecution. We don’t want a law that languishes unused, giving impunity to perpetrators.”

It probably comes as a natural instinct to many of us to agree that heaping hateful misery upon other people’s lives is not something that we want in a decent society and we wouldn’t mind the police getting involved to keep it in check. The problem is, it’s not necessarily as simple as that.

In a key point, Lord Bracadale also said there was no need to introduce new laws governing online hate, which is where we often see some of the most vicious bullying take place in the modern day.

The problem we have isn’t always that there are a lack of laws enabling police to deal with the problem – although we should make sure we are listening to the women’s organisations on the frontline of this – it’s that the internet doesn’t have borders in the way that countries do. Social media is an international pastime, and it’s run by privately owned companies which allow users to keep a hood of anonymity over their heads.

It becomes very difficult for police to take action because of the sheer amount of time, resource and constraints involved in investigating and prosecuting online hate crime.

And so, maybe we’re looking for the answers in the wrong place when it comes to the specific problem of online hate. Perhaps we have to accept that it’s probably impossible to take on the scale of these bullies and look at focusing some energy elsewhere.

Introducing more rigid support structures and networks would help minimise the potential damage caused by online hate and misogyny. Those who find themselves on the receiving end of it often find it has an impact on their mental health, particularly in cases of prolonged bullying or harassment. When social media is a requirement at work, it can affect people’s abilities to do their jobs to the best of their potential.

For young people, the problem of online bullying can have a horrendous impact when it is happening at such crucial stages of emotional development. The threats involved often leave people, adults and children alike, too frightened to try and tackle it alone.

And so we need to get better at supporting those who are struggling. Perhaps a dedicated helpline for young people would be an advantage, providing them with emotional support and realistic guidance about how they can regain control of the situations they’re in.

In the workplace, it should be incumbent on employers who require workers to use social media to ensure they realise they are valued and not always responsible for the bile directed at them by the usually anonymous trolls. Introducing these mechanisms would allow cases to be recorded more formally and contribute to the growing body of evidence that may one day provide stronger justification for fresh legislation.

Expectations can’t rest entirely on lawmakers to tackle this problem, we need a wider response that sets our values in stone.


I’m usually all for development in cool technology and how it’s changing our lives, but news from China in the last week has given me the fear. A food delivery service,, has been given permission by authorities to use drones to deliver takeaway food. The service will operate via 17 routes and involve 100 different restaurants, and operators claim that customers will get their deliveries within 20 minutes of ordering food. As if takeaway apps weren’t making my attempts at living a healthy lifestyle difficult enough, we could soon have drones flying around with a whiff of a cheeky haggis and chips. I’ve had enough, technology, you’re taking it too far.