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Religious hate crime in Scotland

Statistics have been published by the Scottish Government that provide new detail on the scale of religious hate crimes across Scotland.

The data shows that in 2010-11:

– There were 693 charges aggravated by religious prejudice – up nearly 10% in a year and the highest level in four years.
– Around 58% of charges related to offences which were derogatory towards Roman Catholicism and 37% of charges related to offences which were derogatory to Protestantism. Just over 2% related to Judaism, and 2.1% related to Islam.
– There were charges with a religious aggravation in 27 out of Scotland’s 32 Local Authority areas.
– Around 79% of all offences took place in the Strathclyde police force area.
– A third of the total charges were related directly to football.
– In just over 60% of cases, the accused had consumed alcohol prior to the offence.
– Fewer than 5% of incidents were related to marches and parades.

The report does not present any information about the religious beliefs or affiliations of the people targeted by the offensive conduct. Current legislation defines a religiously aggravated offence as an incident where the offender evinces towards the victim “malice and ill-will based on the victim’s membership (or perceived membership) of a religious group or a social or cultural group with a perceived religious affiliation”, or, the offence is motivated by the same.

The proposed new laws seek to create two new distinct offences:

– The first offence targets any sectarian and threatening behaviour expressed at and around football matches which is likely to cause public disorder.
– The second offence relates to the communication of threats of serious harm or which are intended to stir up religious hatred on the internet or other communications

They will give the police and the courts vital additional powers to deal with the minority of people who tarnish the image of Scotland through their expressions of hatred and bigotry at and around football. And those who peddle threats and hatred on the internet.