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Hate Crimes in Scotland – Getting Better or Worse?

A report on Hate Crime in Scotland between 2013 and 2014, published earlier this month, brings together figures on hate crimes relating to race, religion, disability, sexual orientation, and transgender identity. The statistics, which include charges from the Offensive Behavior at Football and Threatening Communications (Scotland) Act, indicate that over the past year, an average of one criminal charge for every five regulated football matches has taken place in Scotland. This is likely due to the vigilant monitoring and increased powers of the Scottish police.

Which Hate Crimes are on the Rise?

Racial crimes remain the most commonly reported hate crime in Scotland, with twice the number of charges reported than the other four hate crime categories combined. These total 4,148 crimes committed over the past year – a three percent rise from 2012 – 2013.

To be considered a crime of racially aggravated harassment and behavior in terms of the Criminal Law (Consolidation) (Scotland) Act 1995, the Public Order Act 1980 or the Crime and Disorder Act 1998, two sources of evidence are required. However, evidence from a single source is sufficient to prove racial aggravation, when attached to another substantive charge.

Sexual orientation aggravated crime, defined as an aggravation of prejudice relating to sexual orientation in the Offences (Aggravated by prejudice) (Scotland) Act 2009, was the second most common type of hate crime reported, with a total of 890 charges in 2013 – 2014 – a twenty-two percent rise from the previous year.

The Lord Advocate, Frank Mulholland QC, found the substantial rise in this type of violence disturbing: “I am concerned about the increases in offences motivated by prejudice against sexual orientation and race. These show that there is still work to be done in those areas.”

Prejudice relating to disability incurred 154 more charges in 2013 – 2014 than 2012 – 2013 – a 12 percent increase. The number of charges reported in conjunction to transgender identity in 2013 – 2014 was 25, compared to 14 in 2012 – 2013.

The Lord Advocate suggested this rise may be due to his latest call to action by those affected by violent and prejudicial behavior. Regardless, he hopes it will steadily decrease in the next year.

Which Hate Crimes are Falling?

The figures show a 15 percent drop in crimes relating to religious aggravation – there was a total of 587 charges in 2013 – 2014. However, some of the charges may have previously been reported under the Offensive Behavior Football and Threatening Communications (Scotland) Act 2012. A total of 635 religiously aggravated charges were reported in 2013 – 2014 – 17 percent fewer than in 2012- 2013 and the lowest since 2009 – 2010.

Due to the nature of religiously motivated hate crimes and their possibility of being prosecuted under the 2012 Act, finding exact statics as to the number of crimes committed has proved troublesome. However, the dropping numbers prove to be a step in the right direction for Scotland.

The Lord Advocate spoke highly of the new figures; ‘it is also reassuring to see a reduction of around 15 percent in criminality motivated by religious prejudice, which is now at the lowest level in nine years’. It is hoped this will set a precedent for religious violence to continue to fall and for Scotland to continue on a path of religious acceptance.

What’s Next?

The figures provided in the Hate Crime in Scotland 2013-14 report (pdf) are encouraging. Whilst they display a general increase across the board for crimes committed in relation to race, religion, disability, sexual orientation, and transgender identity, the rise may be due to the Lord Advocate’s call to action and stricter policing, which in the greater scheme of things is promising.

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