Owners of sex shop listed by Police Scotland as 'hate crime reporting centre' defend credentials

14 March 2024, 05:07

Conservative MSP accused of putting Glasgow sex shop staff at risk in row over hate crime reporting centres
Conservative MSP accused of putting Glasgow sex shop staff at risk in row over hate crime reporting centres. Picture: Handout/LBC
Alan Zycinski

By Alan Zycinski

The owners of a sex shop in Glasgow have accused a Conservative MSP of putting their staff's safety 'at risk' with 'clueless' comments.

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Police Scotland has listed 'Luke and Jack' as a 'third party centre' for reporting hate crimes ahead of new Holyrood legislation coming into force next month.

Other sites across the country include charities working with vulnerable groups, libraries and advice bureaus - but the inclusions of a mushroom farm in North Berwick and a salmon supplier in the Borders have also raised eyebrows.

However, Annie Wells' focus was on the adult store.

"Serious questions must be asked as to who thought a sex shop was an appropriate setting to report a hate crime," she said.

"The SNP's act is flawed enough without asking people to relay their experiences in this sort of outlet in the heart of the city centre. Glaswegians will rightly be wondering what the thinking behind this decision was. Police Scotland should drop this shop from their reporting centres as a matter of urgency."

Co-founders Drew Bigglestone and Ian Diamond
Co-founders Drew Bigglestone and Ian Diamond. Picture: Handout

But co-founders Drew Bigglestone and Ian Diamond, both 51, pointed out the business has actually been used a third-party reporting centre for the last decade.

And insisted it made sense for them to be doing so given their relationship with customers who don't always feel comfortable approaching police officers.

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Ian said: "Being a third party reporting centre has always been a great fit for us because it's a safe space for people to actually talk. People can tell us the most harrowing of stories which some might not be comfortable dealing with.

"But we go through a process of making sure the team we have are able to talk to someone about these things and actually provide an extra layer of support for those customers that means, if they want to provide that information to Police Scotland, through the third party reporting network, then they are able to do that here discretely and privately without any judgement

"What we provide for the community is a safe space to be able to talk about sex and to be able to find the right products for them. Obviously we are very concerned that our staff might now be put into danger and now we have to think about what kind of extra security we have to put in place to keep them safe.

"The fact that Annie Wells has criticised us without actually contacting us and making sure we are a place that actually should be a third party reporting centre, perhaps that's something she should've done first before launching into criticism."

Meanwhile, Drew told LBC: "It does feel like this MSP has no clue, has never set foot inside our shop and has made lots and lots of assumptions

"Our staff spend all their working days listening to people and they couldn't be nicer to all these people. Suddenly they're in a situation where they're maybe feeling at risk. And I'm in a situation where I'm saying to the police 'can you make sure you're there tonight?' because I'm concerned the articles that've gone out could've made us a target.

"Just this week our team was talking about how relaxed we were and suddenly its chipping away at that because someone else is seemingly taking some sort of pleasure in passing judgement, and that judgement is leaving us with some sort of fear."

Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party MSP Annie Wells
Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party MSP Annie Wells. Picture: Facebook

They also told LBC staff have received training around third party reporting but expect to offer them more after discussions with Police Scotland ahead of legislation changing next month.

A Police Scotland spokesperson said: “Police Scotland has used Hate Crime Third Party Reporting Centres for a number of years.

“In some cases, victims and witnesses of a hate crime may not feel comfortable approaching the police directly. Third Party Reporting Centres provide them with a safe space to make a report, and we constantly review these alongside the Scottish Government.

“Any business or organisation can volunteer to be a Third Party Reporting Centre, and they reflect the diverse nature of our local communities. Staff are trained to ensure they can assist victims or witnesses.

“Hate crime and discrimination of any kind is deplorable and entirely unacceptable and we will investigate every report.”

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “As Police Scotland has said victims and witnesses of a hate crime may not feel comfortable approaching the police directly. That is why Third Party Reporting Centres, which have been in place for a number of years, offer a safe alternative space to make a report.

“Our Hate Crime Strategy commits to review third-party reporting arrangements in partnership with Police Scotland, which has already commenced. A short-life working group will re-evaluate the criteria of a third-party reporting centre, recording and maintenance of the scheme and how to improve support for centres and victims.”

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