My last year's Annual Report commented on the then Equalities Bill which was progressing through the UK Parliament.
As highlighted last year the Bill had potential impact on inspectorates in a number of ways. The Act itself would apply to the inspectorates as much as any other bodies and secondly there were consideration of the role that inspection bodies should have in policing the new legislation.
The Bill received the Royal Assent on 8 April 2010 and the current plan is to bring into force the Act's core provisions in October 2010.
Briefly the intention of the Act was to provide a new cross cutting legislative framework to protect the rights of individuals and advance equality of opportunity for all, to update simplify and strengthen the previous legislation and to deliver a simple modern and accessible framework of discrimination law which protected individuals from unfair treatment and promoted a fair and more equal society (the Government Equalities Office).
The Act includes a new general equality duty which will require public authorities to be active in promoting equality and replaces the existing three equality duties covering race, disability and gender with a new equality duty covering race, gender, disability, age, sexual orientation, gender identity, religion or belief and pregnancy/maternity. Scottish Ministers can place additional specific duties on Scottish public authorities to assist delivery of the general duty. A consultation exercise is currently underway on this.
Inspecting for compliance with equality duties has long been an important part of the work of this Inspectorate and will continue to be so. The Chief Inspector sits on the Crown Office Equality Advisory Group and the joint Crown Office and Association of Chief Police Officers in Scotland ( ACPOS) Group on Diversity. In addition the Inspectorate is represented on the Working Group on Interpretation and Translation ( WGIT) which consists of all the main Criminal Justice Partners.