MLAs must tread very carefully when considering new legislation on hate crime.
In Scotland, a bid to extend laws on the ‘stirring up of hatred’ has been criticised by numerous experts including lawyers, police officers and faith groups, concerned about a threat to free speech.
The Scottish Hate Crime Bill has already been significantly amended and there is some way to go before fears are allayed.
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Time will tell if it can work in practice without undermining other, vital liberties.
A legal opinion by Ivan Hare QC earlier this year held that Northern Ireland hate crime legislation is already open to abuse by those who want to shut down debate.
In spite of this, Judge Marrinan suggests a radical shake up of laws, along the same lines we are witnessing in Scotland.
Adopting his recommendations could make the situation in Northern Ireland far worse.
The Northern Ireland executive must study the controversy in Scotland very carefully before it considers whether or not to legislate in this very fraught area.
Supporters of our Scottish campaign include Jim Sillars, former Deputy Leader of the Scottish National Party; The National Secular Society; The Christian Institute; The Peter Tatchell Foundation; Dr Stuart Waiton, criminologist, Abertay University; and Emma Webb, Civitas.
Jamie Gillies, Spokesman for the Free to Disagree campaign, Glasgow
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