Hate crime charges up by four per cent

Hate crime charges up by four per cent

James Wolffe QC

The total number of charges reported to the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service (COPFS) containing at least one element of hate crime rose to 5,525 in 2020-21, four per cent more than 2019-20, new figures show.

A report entitled Hate Crime in Scotland 2020-21 published today brings together figures on race crime, and on crime motivated by prejudice related to religion, disability, sexual orientation and transgender identity.

The majority of hate crime charges contain a racial element. However, the proportion that contain a racial element has generally decreased over the last 10 years, from 75 per cent in 2011-12 to 59 per cent in 2020-21. The proportion of hate crime charges that relate to sexual orientation has increased from 11 per cent to 29 per cent over the same period.

There were 3,285 charges relating to race crime reported in 2020-21, an increase of six per cent compared to 2019-20. The number of charges has increased since 2018-19 but is still 28 per cent lower than the peak in such charges in 2011-12, when 4,547 were reported.

The number of charges reported with a sexual orientation aggravation increased by five per cent in 2020-21 to 1,580. Except for 2014-15, there have been year-on-year increases in charges reported since the legislation introducing this aggravation came into force in 2010.

There were 573 charges with a religious aggravation reported in 2020-21, 14 per cent fewer than in 2019-20.

The number of disability aggravated charges increased by 14 per cent to 448 in 2020-21. With the exception of 2016-17, there have been year-on-year increases in charges reported since the legislation introducing this aggravation came into force in 2010.

There were 46 charges reported in 2020-21 with an aggravation of transgender identity, compared to 47 in 2019-20.

The Lord Advocate, James Wolffe QC, said: “Scottish prosecutors are committed to tackling crimes motivated by hatred and prejudice.  Any victim of such offending should come forward and report it to the appropriate authorities.

“They can be confident that prosecutors will continue to respond to any such report robustly, appropriately and fairly.

“These crimes do not only affect individual victims; they have far reaching consequences for society as a whole. No one should be targeted because of their race, religion, disability, transgender identity or sexual orientation and the Crown takes seriously its responsibility to protect the public from such offending.”

Justice Secretary Keith Brown said: “We recognise that hate crime has a hugely damaging effect on victims, their families and communities and we all must play our part to challenge it. These figures show there is more to do to tackle hatred and prejudice in Scotland and we will continue our work to ensure it will not be tolerated.

“As we press ahead with the development of our new hate crime strategy, which will include implementation of the Hate Crime and Public Order (Scotland) Act 2021, we will consider how we can continue to raise awareness and encourage reporting. We will also consider how to more effectively break down barriers to reporting.

“It is important that we continue to take steps to tackle hate crime, continue to raise awareness and work to reassure communities that we are doing everything we can to prevent hate crime in all its forms. Anyone who experiences or witnesses a hate crime should report it to the police or via a third party reporting centre.”

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