Police Scotland will not investigate JK Rowling over hate crime law row

Police Scotland have said they would not be taking action over Harry Potter author JK Rowling's social media posts about transgender issues. ITV News Scotland Reporter Louise Scott has more

Police Scotland has said JK Rowling's comments on Scottish transgender law were not criminal and the force will not be taking action.

It comes after the Hate Crime and Public Order (Scotland) Act came into effect on Monday, consolidating existing hate crime legislation with the aim to give extra protection to transgender people.

However, women have not been given protection under the law, with the Scottish government instead promising to bring forward legislation to tackle misogyny.

The Harry Potter author, who has become a fierce critic of the Scottish government’s stance on transgender rights, has been one of the highest profile challengers of the legislation, which she claims is "wide open to abuse".

Rowling, who does not believe people can change their gender, insisted: “Freedom of speech and belief are at an end in Scotland if the accurate description of biological sex is deemed criminal.”

After police confirmed they would not investigate, Rowling wrote on X, formerly known as Twitter: "I hope every woman in Scotland who wishes to speak up for the reality and importance of biological sex will be reassured by this announcement, and I trust that all women - irrespective of profile or financial means - will be treated equally under the law."

She also thanked supporters who had backed her stance on the subject, and vowed to stand up for other women who were prosecuted, adding: “If they go after any woman for simply calling a man a man, I’ll repeat that woman’s words and they can charge us both at once.”

Rowling wrote to one user: "I won't ever forget the support I've had x."

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak earlier said "nobody should be criminalised for saying common sense things about biological sex" after Rowling challenged the Scottish government’s new hate crime legislation.

The prime minister appeared to back the author's criticism and said there are no plans "to do anything like that here in England".

"We have a proud tradition of free speech and I think it just shows - whether it's the SNP or Labour - these are the wrong set of priorities for the country," he said.

When pressed if he supports Rowling's approach, Mr Sunak replied: "It's not right for me to comment on police matters, individual matters, but what I do support very strongly are people's right to free speech" but added that "nobody should be criminalised for saying common sense things about biological sex".

In a social media post, Rowling argued: “It is impossible to accurately describe or tackle the reality of violence and sexual violence committed against women and girls, or address the current assault on women’s and girls’ rights, unless we are allowed to call a man a man.”

Criticising the new laws, she insisted that the “legislation is wide open to abuse by activists who wish to silence those of us speaking out about the dangers of eliminating women’s and girls’ single-sex spaces”.

Rowling added: “I’m currently out of the country, but if what I’ve written here qualifies as an offence under the terms of the new act, I look forward to being arrested when I return to the birthplace of the Scottish Enlightenment.”

The legislation consolidates existing hate crime laws and creates a new offence of stirring up hatred against protected characteristics

The Act has also raised the ire of policing bodies, with the Scottish Police Federation (SPF) claiming training for officers is not enough and the Association of Scottish Police Superintendents (ASPS) raising concerns about the legislation being weaponised for political purposes.

ASPS warned vexatious complaints could be made against people based on their views by political opponents.

In a letter to Holyrood’s Justice Committee, they said the law could be “weaponised” by an “activist fringe” across the political spectrum.

But on Friday, First Minister Humza Yousaf said: “I would say to anybody who thinks they are a victim of hatred, we take that seriously, if you felt you are a victim of hatred, then of course reporting that to police is the right thing to do.”

The First Minister warned against vexatious complaints being made under the Act Credit: Jane Barlow/PA

The first minister has repeatedly said there is “disinformation” being spread about the Bill and what it entails, claiming there is a “triple lock” of protection for speech.

This includes an explicit clause, a defence for the accused’s behaviour being “reasonable” and that the Act is compatible with the European Convention on Human Rights.

Mr Yousaf also told journalists on Friday that the legislation would not go the way of other high-profile legislative U-turns under the SNP, such as the named persons scheme and the Offensive Behaviour at Football Act.

The legislation, which he shepherded through Holyrood as former first minister Nicola Sturgeon’s justice secretary, “got the right balance” between protections against hate crime and freedom of speech, he said.

The act has been a running sore for the SNP-led government in recent years, with a number of changes having to be made before it was passed and the three-year gap before it came into effect.

But critics, many of whom, including the Harry Potter author, hold gender critical views, have said it would be weaponised against them.

Scottish Tory justice spokesman Russell Findlay – who along with his party has been an ardent opponent of the law – said: “Officers would rather tackle real crimes and keep communities safe, rather than having to investigate malicious and spurious complaints.

“Humza Yousaf should bin his Hate Crime Act and instead divert resources towards frontline policing which is at breaking point.”

But Police Scotland Chief Constable Jo Farrell, speaking at a meeting of the Scottish Police Authority board, said the force would apply the Act “in a measured way”.

She added that there would be “close scrutiny” of how the legislation is being enforced as well as what reports are being received.

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