Tackling hate crime

New figures on hate crime, religiously-aggravated and offensive behaviour charges.

New figures released today show a slight increase in incidents of hate crime reported to Scotland’s prosecution service in 2015-16, compared to the previous year.

Within the figures, racial crime remains the most commonly reported hate crime with 3,712 charges reported in 2015-16, a decrease on last year and the lowest number reported since 2003-04.

581 charges with a religious aggravation were reported to the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service (COPFS) in 2015-16, a 3% increase on 2014-15.

Figures relating to the Offensive Behaviour at Football and Threatening Communications Act (OBFTCA) show there were 287 charges reported to COPFS under section 1 of the Act in 2015-16, an increase of 49% on the previous year. These related to 117 fixtures across 29 stadiums, up from 54 games played at 21 stadiums the year before.

Other findings in the reports include:

  • 1,020 charges were reported with an aggravation of prejudice relating to sexual orientation, up 20% on the previous year, and 201 relating to disability, an increase of 14%.
  • Roman Catholicism is the religion most often noted in religiously-aggravated charges (51% in 2015-16), followed by Protestantism (24%) and Islam (23%)
  • The number of charges where Islam was noted has almost doubled, from the 71 charges in 2014-15, to 134 charges in 2015-16
  • The police were the victim in 41% of religiously aggravated charges in 2015-16.

Cabinet Secretary for Justice Michael Matheson said:

“There is no place in Scotland for any crime motivated by prejudice, be it racial, religious, homophobic or any other form of intolerance.

“While I am concerned at an increase in the number of charges on last year, including the rise in alleged offences against Islam, it does indicate an improvement in the willingness of the public to report these crimes, and that should be welcomed.

“I want every victim of such crimes to be willing to come forward and work with the police to ensure the perpetrators can be pursued and punished appropriately.”

Mr Matheson added:

“The recent appalling scenes at the Scottish Cup Final demonstrated that the unacceptable behaviour of a minority of football fans continues to be a problem.

“An increase in the number of charges under the Offensive Behaviour Act shows that the legislation continues to be an important tool in tackling all forms of offensive behaviour, including sectarianism, and sends a clear message that such behaviour has no place in a modern, open and inclusive society. I have asked Scottish football to take further steps to address this long-standing issue and I expect to see progress on this imminently.

“Recorded crime in Scotland is now at its lowest level in 41 years and the country is becoming a safer place thanks to the combined efforts of our communities and law enforcement agencies.

“But one incident of hate crime is one too many. Intolerance in any form is simply unacceptable and there is no place for it in 21st century Scotland. Whether you’re a victim, or you are someone who witnesses unacceptable behaviour, be assured that the police and other authorities will take your report seriously and respond in a robust way.”

Chief Superintendent Barry McEwan Police Scotland said:

“Tackling hate crime is a priority for Police Scotland and we are committed to rooting out crimes motivated by prejudice. Last year we ran a highly successful anti hate crime campaign which reached many people and our commitment to eradicating hate crime continues. Police Scotland, with Crown Office, hosted a joint Hate Crime Conference at Hampden Park in March 2016 at which the First Minister provided a keynote address alongside the Lord Advocate and the Chief Constable, showing our collective commitment to tackling hate crime in all its forms.

“Today’s figures provide evidence of our efforts but they also show that we must continue to work within all our communities to encourage reporting and to get the message across that hate crime will not be tolerated.

“Anyone who feels they have been the victim of a crime which is motivated by malice or ill will because of their sexual orientation, gender identity, faith, ethnicity or disability, should report it to us. They can also use our Third Party Reporting network or our online reporting mechanism, which is available on the Force website. We take all such reports very seriously and will conduct thorough investigations to ensure perpetrators are brought to justice.

“Police Scotland remains committed to ensuring that there is no place for prejudice in Scotland and together with our partners we will keep the communities of Scotland safe."

Notes to editors

The Scottish Government has today published two reports:

‘Religiously-aggravated offending in Scotland 2015-16’ provides insight into the nature of religiously aggravated charges reported to the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service (COPFS) in 2015-16; including information on the age and sex of accused, where incidents took place, if the charges were related to alcohol, drugs, football, marches or parades, and which religions were targeted. It is available here.

‘Charges reported under the Offensive Behaviour at Football and Threatening Communications Act in 2015-16’ is the fourth annual presentation of information about charges reported under the Act to COPFS. It includes information about the incidents, the accused and their football affiliations, the victims, the characteristics that were the subject of abuse, the fixtures where there were charges, and the progress of charges. It is available here.

In addition, Hate Crime in Scotland 2015-16, published by COPFS provides details of hate crime reported to the prosecution service in Scotland in 2015-16, and earlier years. It is available here.

Police Scotland has also developed an on-line reporting mechanism, which is available on the Force web-site. This reporting option provides victims and witnesses with the means to record details of any incident on-line that they have been involved in, whether criminal or otherwise. Use of the tool has increased in relation to both physical incidents which have occurred in Scotland, but also in response to comments or views posted via social media from around the world which people find offensive. More than 1000 on-line reports have been submitted since 2014.


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