JK Rowling social media posts about hate law crime ‘not criminal’, says Police Scotland

Harry Potter author JK Rowling’s posts about Scotland’s new hate crime law are “not criminal”, Police Scotland have said.

The force said they received complaints regarding Rowling’s posts on X, formerly Twitter, in which she said that transgender women are men – and challenged police to arrest her for her views.

Rowling, who said she was out the country, said if her posts were an offence under the Hate Crime and Public Order (Scotland) Act – which came into force on Monday – she would “look forward to being arrested when I return to the birthplace of the Scottish Enlightenment”.

JK Rowling first began to publicly comment on transgender rights in 2019 (Getty Images)
JK Rowling first began to publicly comment on transgender rights in 2019 (Getty Images)

The author, who has become a fierce critic of the Scottish Government’s stance on trans rights, said that “freedom of speech and belief are at an end in Scotland if the accurate description of biological sex is deemed criminal”.

A Police Scotland spokesperson said: “We have received complaints in relation to the social media post.

“The comments are not assessed to be criminal and no further action will be taken.”

In response to the police statement, Rowling said: “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.”

Rowling, who also writes crime novels under the pseudonym Robert Galbraith, first began to comment publicly on trans issues in 2019, when she backed think-tank tax expert Maya Forstater after she was sacked over tweets saying that transgender people cannot change their biological sex.

Following a backlash over further comments on the issue, Rowling revealed that she was partly motivated to speak out on trans issues because of her experience of domestic abuse and sexual assault.

Rowling has said her views have attracted “so many death threats I could paper the house with them”, and in 2021 had her address posted online by campaigners who posed outside her home with “Trans liberation now” signs.

Her stance has also put her at odds with many fans of her bestselling Harry Potter franchise, with the governing body for Quidditch UK changing its name in 2021 to “distance” itself from the author.

The eponymous star of the Harry Potter film series, Daniel Radcliffe, is among several of his fellow actors to state opposing views, putting out a statement in 2020 to say that “transgender women are women” and anything to the contrary “erases the identity and dignity” of trans people.

Daniel Radcliffe is among several Harry Potter stars to have spoken out in defence of transgender rights (Getty Images)
Daniel Radcliffe is among several Harry Potter stars to have spoken out in defence of transgender rights (Getty Images)

Scotland’s new hate crime laws came into force on Monday, introducing updated legislation around transgender identities. Passed in 2021, the hate crime act aims to ensure “crimes motivated by prejudice will be treated more seriously and will not be tolerated by society”.

The amended legislation removes the term intersexuality from the current definition of transgender identity – meaning it now provides for both biological sex characteristics and gender identities.

Scotland’s new laws do not make misgendering a specific criminal offence. Rather, it will be up to the police to interpret whether a person’s behaviour constitutes a hate crime on a case-by-case basis. The bill also offers protections for freedom of expression, giving people scope to discuss matters around certain characteristics or identities, including transgender identity.

In her social media posts on Monday, Rowling claimed the “new legislation is wide open to abuse by activists who wish to silence those of us speaking out”.

“Scottish lawmakers seem to have placed higher value on the feelings of men performing their idea of femaleness, however misogynistically or opportunistically, than on the rights and freedoms of actual women and girls,” she wrote.

Scotland’s first minister Humza Yousaf has said he is “very proud” of the new laws, which he said would help protect against a “rising tide” of hatred. He pointed to the “triple lock” of protection for freedom of expression in the legislation, including an explicit clause on free speech, a defence for the accused’s behaviour being “reasonable”, and the fact that the Act is compatible with the European Convention on Human Rights.

Mr Yousaf also insisted he was “very confident in Police Scotland’s ability in order to implement this legislation in the way it should” – despite the force admitting more than a third of its officers had not yet completed an online training course in the new laws.