Inspector Rebus and the mystery of the unbelievably stupid hate crime law

Humza Yousaf
Humza Yousaf
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Critics of Humza Yousaf fear that Scotland’s unprecedentedly strict new laws against “hate crime”, which came into force yesterday, will have a chilling effect on free speech. But it isn’t just members of the public who have reason to worry. The new laws could also create problems for police officers.

Even fictional ones…

Detective Inspector Rebus let out a heavy sigh, and pressed the doorbell. It was only 10.30am, yet this had already been the most gruelling day of his long career. The station had been overwhelmed with calls from the public. And every single one was near identical.

“I’d like to report an extremely serious crime, please.”

“What’s the nature of the offence?”

“A nasty lady on the internet said men shouldn’t be allowed to play women’s rugby.”

“We’ll send an officer round straight away, sir.”

“‘Sir’? How dare you make such hurtful assumptions about my gender identity. Right, that’s it. I’m reporting you for hate crime, as well.”

Rebus shook his head, and waited. Eventually, the door of the house opened, and a silver-haired old woman peered out.

“Good morning, madam,” said Rebus. “We have a warrant to search this property.”

The old woman stared at him. “What? Why?”

“We have reason to believe that you have been using social media to express unauthorised opinions. DS Clarke, please proceed.”

Clarke strode in and began the search. But the old woman continued to stare at Rebus.

“Is this about that crazy new law?” she asked. “For pity’s sake, I haven’t committed a hate crime.”

“That’s not for you to decide, madam. Or even for us. According to Police Scotland, ‘the defining factor in determining whether an incident is a hate incident’ is ‘the perception of the victim’. So if some anonymous Twitter user says you’re an evil old transphobic bigot, you are, and that’s that.”

Before the woman could protest, DS Clarke returned.

“I’ve found some deeply concerning evidence,” she said. “A full set of the Harry Potter books.”

After the evidence had been bagged up, and the suspect led away in handcuffs, Rebus puffed out his cheeks. His job had never been so exhausting. Down in England, people could march through the streets waving swastikas and calling for jihad, and all the police would do was shrug and mumble something about “context”.

Here in Scotland, by contrast, officers were run off their feet. That very morning in Glasgow, DCI Taggart had had to shut down a feminist book group for claiming that all lesbians were female, while up in the Highlands, Hamish Macbeth had had to apprehend a village postmistress for denying that men had wombs. It was relentless. In fact, the police were now so busy investigating JK Rowling’s tweets, they had no time to investigate anything else.

At that moment, Rebus’s mobile phone rang.

“Inspector,” said the voice at the other end. “We’re getting reports of Scotland’s biggest ever bank heist.”

“I’ll try and look into it as soon as I’ve finished my next job,” replied Rebus. “I’m on my way to the scene of a triple misgendering.”

Why do the Left still hate the British flag?

Labour MPs are worried. Sir Keir Starmer has taken to plastering their party’s leaflets with images of the Union flag. And, according to the Guardian, some of his parliamentary colleagues fear that this will “alienate ethnic minority voters”.

What nonsense. There’s no reason to think that non-white voters find the Union flag off-putting. In a survey carried out in October 2020, ethnic minority Britons were almost exactly as likely as white Britons to say they felt proud to be British (78 per cent versus 81 per cent).

If anyone finds the Union flag offensive, I suspect it’s not voters, but Labour’s own activists. A great many of them consider flag-waving to be ugly and intimidating, the behaviour of mindless thugs and fanatics. Actually, no, that’s not strictly accurate. They’re very happy waving the Palestinian flag, or any of the several dozen LGBTQIA+ Pride flags. So it’s not flags in general they object to. Just the one that represents their own country.

It’s now over 80 years since George Orwell wrote England Your England, his essay on national identity. Yet its most famous lines remain as true today as ever.

“England is perhaps the only great country whose intellectuals are ashamed of their own nationality,” he wrote. “It is a strange fact, but it is unquestionably true that almost any English intellectual would feel more ashamed of standing to attention during God Save the King than of stealing from a poor box.”

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