JK Rowling will not be arrested under new Scottish hate law, say police

<span>Protesters rally outside Holyrood against the SNP's hate crime bill, which came into force on Monday.</span><span>Photograph: Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images</span>
Protesters rally outside Holyrood against the SNP's hate crime bill, which came into force on Monday.Photograph: Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images

Comments by JK Rowling challenging police to arrest her for online misgendering do not amount to a crime, Police Scotland said.

As the Scottish government’s contentious hate crime law came into force on Monday, the author and gender-critical activist posted a thread on X saying the legislation was “wide open to abuse” after listing sex offenders who had described themselves as transgender alongside well-known trans women activists, describing them as “men, every last one of them”.

She stated that “freedom of speech and belief are at an end in Scotland if the accurate description of biological sex is deemed criminal”.

On Tuesday afternoon, Police Scotland confirmed they had received complaints about the social media post but added: “The comments are not assessed to be criminal and no further action will be taken.”

The act brings together existing laws. Under the Hate Crime and Public Order (Scotland) Act 2021, it is a crime to make derogatory comments based on age, disability, religion, sexual orientation, transgender identity or being intersex.

As concerns continue about officers being overwhelmed, reports suggest Police Scotland has received at least 3,000 complaints under the new act in the two days since it came into force.

Responding to the decision, 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.”

Earlier on Tuesday, the force also confirmed that racist graffiti found on Monday near Humza Yousaf’s family home in Broughty Ferry had been recorded under the new act.

The first minister said the graffiti, which contained a racial slur against him, was a reminder of why Scotland must take a “zero-tolerance” approach to hatred. On X, he said: “I do my best to shield my children from the racism and Islamophobia I face on a regular basis. That becomes increasingly difficult when racist graffiti targeting me appears near our family home.”

The Scottish National party leader robustly defended the legislation, which has prompted a barrage of criticism about how it will be policed and how it could affect freedom of speech, as well as fears that it could be used maliciously against certain groups for expressing their opinions, in particular gender-critical feminists.

Yousaf said it “absolutely protects people in their freedom of expression” while guarding “people from a rising tide of hatred that we’ve seen far too often in our society”.

The prime minister, Rishi Sunak, asked about Rowling’s comment on Tuesday morning, said that while he would not comment on a police matter, “nobody should be criminalised for saying commonsense things about biological sex”.

Related: Scotland’s new hate crime law: what does it cover and why is it controversial?

Robbie de Santos, the director of campaigns and human rights at Stonewall, said: “The prime minister and high-profile commentators are simply incorrect when they suggest that misgendering or ‘stating facts on biology’ would be criminalised.

“This is no more true than stating that the existing law has criminalised the criticism of religion. This kind of misrepresentation about the act and its purpose only serves to trivialise the very real violence committed against us in the name of hate.”

He called on political leaders to address the trend of “rising hate and escalating violence” facing LGBTQ+ people. “We already have longstanding laws preventing the incitement of hatred on the basis of race and religion, and the new Hate Crime Act creates parity in the law in Scotland by expanding these protections to cover sexual orientation, transgender identity, age and disability,” he said.