An expanded hate-crimes law covering gays and lesbians as well as people with disabilities went into effect Wednesday in Scotland.
"From today, perpetrators of hate crimes against disabled and LGBT Scots will be put on notice," said Patrick Harvie, a member of the Scottish parliament. The Offenses Aggravated by Prejudice Act is designed to expand the definition of hate crimes in the country, reports the BBC News.
Introduced in 2008 by Harvie, what is being called Scotland's first Green Party-initiated legislation has gained cross-party support in parliament. The new law drew praise from several corners Labour Party Ministry of Justice spokesman Rickard Baker said, "It is clear too many victims of hate crimes do not feel confident in coming forward and reporting hate crime because they do not believe it will make a difference — that needs to change."
Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill added, "That is exactly why we've got this new legislation coming into force, which will rightly put these kinds of crimes on the same footing as racist incidents."
The implementation of the legislation comes after a recent poll by the gay rights group Stonewall suggested that as many as one third of LGBT Scots had been physically attacked, while less than half of those who'd experienced violence went on to report it. Another two thirds recalled being verbally abused, with 88% opting not to report it.
"Courts can now take account of the true nature of their crimes when sentencing,” Harvie said, “and the police will be gathering data to see how effectively these offenses are being tackled.