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When to Wheesht!

Almost 1,000 new Scottish members have joined the Free Speech Union the past fortnight, most of them women,

Sunday, April 7, 2024
5 mins.

Say Nothing?!

by Frances Watt

The following is copied from Iain Lawson's latest blogpost and contains important information for anyone concerned that they may (inadvertently or not) fall foul of the new Hate Crime Act. FIRST NEWSLETTER FROM THE FREE SPEECH UNION – YOURS FOR SCOTLAND (wordpress.com)

If you haven't time to read all of this, at least take note of this link:

Homepage - Levy & McRae (lemac.co.uk)

That's the legal firm (based in Glasgow) which is prepared to defend those accused under the HCA. It is worth noting that the 'McRae' in the firm's name was, indeed, Willie McRae Willie McRae - Wikipedia

Recent advice from senior legal people interested in this Act and its ramifications have already laid out the basic advice to anyone who is worried. (We're sure it was in a tweet by Roddy Dunlop but can't locate it now.) Basically, if you're cautioned or arrested you give your name and address and that's it. Say nothing else.

Contact details for Levy & McRae:

6th Floor, Pacific House,
70 Wellington Street,
Glasgow, G2 6UA

Tel – 0141 307 2311

Free Speech Union Newsletter (extract)

'Humza Yousaf says Police Scotland is ‘reviewing’ guidance on NCHIs following the intervention by Murdo Fraser and the FSU.

Conservative Member of the Scottish Parliament Murdo Fraser has written to Scotland’s top police officer to demand “urgent clarity” after the force recorded a social media post he had written criticising the SNP-led government’s Non-Binary Equality Action Plan as a ‘non-crime hate incident’ (NCHI), yet failed to do the same when similar complaints were made against SNP First Minister Humza Yousaf and multi-millionaire author JK Rowling.

This is contrary to their own guidance, which is to record all reports of ‘hate crimes’ as NCHIs, no matter how trivial or vexatious. Mr Fraser has previously sent a letter to Police Scotland, that we helped him draft, threatening legal action if they didn’t revise this guidance, in a case we have pledged to fund. (You can find the crowdfunder here.)

However, a law suit may not be necessary. According to Humza Yousaf, being interviewed yesterday afternoon, Police Scotland are now “looking at the changes that were made in England and Wales recently [regarding the recording and retention of NCHIs] and reviewing their own procedures in that respect”.

If that means Police Scotland are going to revise their national guidance on NCHIs to bring it into line with the guidance that the police in England and Wales are now following – after a succession of legal and legislative victories by Harry Miller and the FSU – that’s excellent news.

NCHIs can have a detrimental effect on a person’s career – for instance, they can show up on an enhanced criminal record check and may prevent someone getting a job as a teacher or a carer.

What Mr Yousaf said in the interview was slipped in almost as an afterthought, but it sounds very much like our threat of legal action has pressured Police Scotland into doing the right thing, and respecting the free speech rights of Scottish citizens. That means we can allocate the money we’ve raised so far to pay for the defence of any of our members who are contacted by the police in connection with a speech-related ‘hate crime’.Full details here.

FSU sets up Hate Speech Hotline in Scotland

As reported in the Times, almost 1,000 new Scottish members have joined in the past fortnight, most of them women, and in response we’ve set up a Hate Speech Hotline in case any of them get into trouble with the police about something they’ve said. We’ve also put an arrangement in place with Levy & McRea, a top firm of criminal lawyers in Scotland, so if any of our members are arrested or interviewed under caution for something speech-related we can come to their aid.

You can find the Hotline number, as well as detailed instructions about what to do if you’re arrested in Scotland for a speech-related offence in this set of FAQs, here.

The Hotline number is also available in this separate set of FAQs, here, which answers questions about the new criminal offences created by the Hate Crime Act.

FSU Edinburgh Speakeasy: Thirty Days of Hate Crime Laws

In just the first 24 hours after the activation of Scotland’s Hate Crime and Public Order Act on 1st April, 3,800 ‘hate crimes’ were reported to Police Scotland.

This was entirely predictable and no doubt reflected a combination of reporting by those keen to make use of the act’s censorious powers and mischievous attempts at exposing its almost comically authoritarian intent. The problems of the law on paper were much discussed in the years it took for it to reach the statute book, but what will happen next?

Since the law came into force, the FSU has been inundated with hundreds of new members in Scotland, a sure indication of the level of concern that exists north of the border. But it’s not just the Scots who are paying close attention – free speech supporters in the rest of the UK and internationally are watching closely, anxious to learn how to resist attempts elsewhere to impose similarly draconian measures.

On Wednesday 1st May, the FSU brings together an expert panel to discuss what we have learnt from the first 30 days under the new hate crime regime, and what can be done to mitigate its effects and hasten its demise. Speakers confirmed so far include MSP Murdo Fraser, FSU general secretary Toby Young and lawyer David McKie.

There will, of course, be plenty of time for discussion, as well as socialising with fellow free speech supporters.

Tickets are £5 for FSU members, £10 for non-members.FSU Members can join the event online by registering here.

David McKie is a lawyer at the firm of Levy & McRea, with whom we’ve got a special arrangement, so if any of the other panellists – or members of the audience – are arrested for ‘hate speech’ on the night, he will be able to act for them.'

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