Detailed analysis of religious hate crime


Statistics published by the Scottish Government today provide a detailed picture of the scale of religious hate crimes across Scotland.

Earlier this year the Crown Office published figures showing an increase in the number of charges for religious hate crime in 2011-12. At the time the Crown said this may be due to greater awareness of religious hate crime, leading to increased recording and reporting.

Today’s figures give more detail on the religious beliefs targeted and the nature of the cases.
The information has been made available for the second year running following a pledge made by the First Minister that a more comprehensive analysis of data relating to Section 74 of the Criminal Justice Scotland Act 2003 would be undertaken and published.

The figures show that:

  • The proportional spread of religions targeted has remained similar, with the two main religious beliefs targeted being Catholicism and Protestantism.
  • There were 19 attacks on Islam in 2011-12, up from 15 in 10/11, and 14 on Judaism, down from 16 in 10/11. 26 per cent of anti-Islam charges were for assaults compared to less than five per cent of other religiously aggravated attacks
  • Most areas of Scotland have seen a rise in religiously aggravated charges, with Glasgow being a notable exception.
  • Individual members of the public were the victims of religiously aggravated offending in less than a third of cases (31 per cent). In the majority of cases, police officers and the wider community in general were the victims, accounting for 51 per cent and 30 per cent of all cases.
  • The number of charges related to football rose from 231 to 267, although the number of charges at football stadiums reduced  both in terms of number and as a proportion of all charges, from 90 in 10-11 (13 per cent) to 67 in 11-12 ( eight per cent). This reduction in charges may in part be explained by the increased focus on football-policing and supporter conduct through the work of the Joint Action Group on Football, set up last year.
  • Just two per cent of incidents were related to marches and parades.

Minister for Community Safety Roseanna Cunningham said: “It is completely unacceptable for people to think that offensive religious or sectarian language, or verbal or physical attacks based purely on religious prejudice, have any place in 21st century Scotland. While it is concerning that the number of cases has risen, I hope that the increase does indicate people feel more confident about reporting the perpetrators.

“I fully support the law enforcement agencies in doing everything in their power to punish those who wrongly believe it is acceptable to behave in such a way on the basis of their own religious prejudices.

“But these figures show that as well as tough enforcement, we need to tackle the root causes of religious prejudice that sadly is all too prevalent in parts of Scottish society. That is why we are carrying out a range of actions to eradicate sectarianism.  

“We’ve brought in new legislation to give police and prosecutors additional tools in their armoury to punish those who peddle sectarian hatred, including a new offence of threatening communications. This is being backed by £9 million over the next three years to help organisations take forward wider work to tackle sectarianism because we’ve always said tackling bigotry isn’t just about legislation or just about football. And we recently appointed a new independent expert group to help advise on current and future policies to eradicate sectarianism in Scotland, chaired by Dr Duncan Morrow.”
Figures released by the Crown Office earlier this month show that since the Offensive Behaviour at Football and Threatening Communications (Scotland) Act 2012 came into force on March 1 this year, 89 per cent of the cases reported had been prosecuted, with convictions in 83 per cent of the cases that had concluded.

The Act created a new criminal offence of “offensive behaviour at regulated football matches” which criminalises offensive or threatening behaviour in relation to football matches that is likely or would be likely to incite public disorder.

The report published today 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. There is no data on which religious or cultural groups are members of as this is not relevant to the definition of the crime in law.

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