Police Scotland receives over 3,000 complaints about the new hate crime laws

JK Rowling posted pictures of ten high-profile transgender people on Monday and mocked their claims to be women – John Phillips/Getty Images

More than 3,000 complaints have been made to Police Scotland about the SNP’s new hate crime laws since they came into force this week, it has been revealed, after warnings that the force would be overburdened.

Calum Steele, former general secretary of the Scottish Police Federation, said he understood that around 3,800 cases had been lodged in the previous 24 hours.

Although the force said the number of complaints was still being collated, BBC Scotland reported the extraordinary total from Monday. Critics said the legislation would “weaponize” trans activists.

JK Rowling has warned Police Scotland not to “go after” any transgender woman after the force dismissed the first complaints against her under new hate crime laws.

The Harry Potter author said she hoped “every woman in Scotland” would be “relieved” when the force announced its position that transgender women are not really men.

In a direct challenge to Police Scotland, she said she expected all women who expressed similar views to be treated equally under the law “regardless of profile or financial means”.

Rowling, who lives in Edinburgh, said: “If they go after any woman for calling a man, I’ll repeat that woman’s words and they can cut us both straight away.”

Hours after the Hate Crime and Public Order (Scotland) Act came into force on Monday, Rowling posted pictures of 10 high-profile trans people on Monday and mocked their claims to be women.

Rowling’s list, put on X, included Isla Bryson, who was first sent to a women’s prison after being convicted of two counts of rape, and whom she jokingly referred to as “a beautiful Scotch ale”, and India Willoughby, the personality television. Then she threatened the force to arrest her.

Her supporters hoped that trans activists would use the legislation to make police complaints against her.

Ms Willoughby said Police Scotland’s announcement was a “joke”, accusing the force of resorting to the author and “making a mockery of the entire Hate Crime Bill”.

Joanna Cherry KC, a senior SNP MP and ally of Rowling, said the author had done a “fantastic service” but warned: “It’s a bit early to be sure that the enthusiasm that wanted to be armed on aspects of this new law against women. block.”

She questioned whether Rowling would record a non-criminal hate incident against her name, and challenged Police Scotland to come clean on the matter. The force declined to comment.

There was concern that there would be a number of distressing complaints about the legislation. The Scottish Police Federation, which represents rank and file officers, told the Telegraph that anecdotal evidence from members suggested there were “a lot of complaints” in the first 24 hours.

David Kennedy, the general secretary, said: “My feedback is that there are a lot of complaints coming in. It will be several weeks until we see its impact on reporting mechanisms.”

Humza Yousaf oversaw the passage of hate crime legislation at Holyrood in 2021, when he was justice secretary in Nicola Sturgeon’s government.

It did not come into effect until Monday, however, as Police Scotland said officers needed time for training.

‘Comments not considered criminal’

A person commits an offense under the Act if they communicate material or behave in a way “which a reasonable person would consider threatening or offensive”, with the intention of inciting hatred based on the protected characteristics.

The legislation extends the established offenses of racial abuse to other grounds of age, disability, religion, sexual orientation or transgender identity. However, an amendment to add sex to the list of protected characteristics was voted down when the legislation was being considered at Holyrood.

Concerns have been expressed that the legislation’s definition of hate crime is too ambiguous, which could have a “chilling” effect on freedom of expression.

At the end of the list, Rowling tweeted: “April Fools! Just kidding. Of course, the people mentioned in the above tweets are not women at all, but men, every last one of them.

She concluded: “I am out of the country at the moment, but if what I have written here qualifies as an offense under the terms of the new Act, I look forward to being arrested when I return to my birthplace of England and Scotland. “

She used the hashtag #arrestme, but Rishi Sunak and Alister Jack, the Scottish Secretary, said she should not be criminalized for “stating simple facts about biology”.

In a statement issued on Tuesday evening, a Police Scotland spokesman said: “We have received complaints about the post on social media. The comments are not considered criminal and no further action will be taken.”

Rowling posted on X, formerly known as Twitter:

But Willoughby tweeted: “JK Rowling has deliberately tweeted a hateful transphobia – and Police Scotland is now caved. There was a secret behind it. She insulted named people because they were trans. She hurt him, and she’ll hurt him even more now.”

Roddy Dunlop KC, Dean of the Faculty of Advocates, said: “As many of us have said: the bar for prosecution, let alone conviction, is high, and I doubt we will see much of either.

“The problem is more likely to be the police being overwhelmed with reports, and what happens in terms of recording.”

Last week, it emerged that a Tory MSP was preparing to take legal action against Police Scotland after his tweet comparing non-binary people to those who identify as cats was recorded as a non-crime hate incident .

Murdoch Fraser discovered that the social media post, in which he criticized the Scottish government’s gender policies in November, had been formally recorded as such an incident without his knowledge.

The Mid Scotland and Fife MSP said he had received legal advice which indicated Police Scotland’s actions were illegal, as they breached his rights to free speech and data protection.

Mr Fraser welcomed Police Scotland’s announcement on Rowling but added: “It is likely that in line with the current policy, which I am challenging as illegal, these complaints will now be recorded as non-criminal hate incidents. “

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