Ethnicity and justice in Scotland: overview of research 2023 to 2024

A supporting paper produced for the Cross Justice Working Group on Race Data and Evidence.

Recently published research on ethnicity

This section provides an overview of recently published research from Working Group members, where ethnicity is central to the piece of research.

Research is listed alphabetically by organisation. 

Coalition for Racial Equality and Rights published: 

  • “Ethnicity and Employment in Scotland’s Public Sector” (May 2023) It estimates the ethnic diversity of the Scottish public sector and assess trends in employment practices regarding ethnicity. The research draws together data from 208 mainstreaming and employee monitoring reports published in April 2021. Ethnicity is central to this report and one chapter focuses on police, fire and rescue services

Police Scotland, the Scottish Institute for Policing Research, and the Scottish Police Authority published the following three pieces of research:

Police Scotland and the Scottish Institute for Policing Research published:

The Scottish Government, Justice Analytical Services published the following three pieces of research:

  • “Ethnicity in the justice system: evidence review” (April 2023) Review of quantitative evidence relating to ethnicity in the justice system in Scotland. It collates existing data and also includes new ethnicity analysis, based on a pooled sample from the Scottish Crime and Justice Survey, combining the nine surveys conducted between 2008/09 and 2019/20 comprising 90,000 interviews. The paper presents evidence on four broad topics:
    • perceptions of crime, safety, the police and the justice system,
    • experiences of crime,
    • people's interactions with different elements of the justice system when they come into contact with it, and
    • the ethnic composition of the justice workforce
  • “Occasional Paper: Analysis of the ethnicity of individuals subject to hearings in Scottish courts” (April 2023) New experimental analysis based on the Scottish Courts and Tribunals Service’s management information, on the ethnicity of individuals who were proceeded against and sentenced from April 2016 to February 2023.  Findings from this analysis identify, for different ethnic groups, if the number of people with court appearances are in proportion to the composition of the general population in Scotland (based on 2011 Census data), and if disposal outcomes are in proportion to court appearances. The analysis compares prosecutions, convictions, sentence outcomes and sentence lengths by ethnic groupings.
  • “Police recorded hate crime - characteristics: updated study” (January 2023) Based on a random sample of police recorded hate crimes, this study looks into the nature of police recorded hate aggravated crimes in Scotland. The analysis provides a detailed breakdown on ethnicity of victims and perpetrators for hate crimes and by aggravator. It also provides data on the prejudice shown by the perpetrators, by hate aggravator (including race).

Other relevant research on ethnicity

This section provides an overview of other relevant recently published ethnicity research we know about. Research is listed alphabetically by organisation.

Missing People Charity, a UK wide charity who responded to our 2021 survey aimed at academics and researchers based in Scotland, published the following two pieces of research:

  • “What we know so far – Experiences of racial discrimination against missing people and their families” (January 2022) This report primarily focuses on people of colour’s experiences of discrimination in the police response to missing people, as well as some consideration of discrimination in the media reporting of missing people. A qualitative approach has been used with the aim of amplifying the voices of people who have shared their experience with the charity
  • “The Ethnicity of Missing People” (March 2023) Based on data from police forces and local authorities, the research found that people from minority ethnic groups were missing for longer, less likely to be found by the police, and less likely to be recorded as being at risk, than white people. This is the first time that data of this nature has been collected and published. Includes figures for Scotland

Public Health Scotland published the following: 

  • “Minority Ethnic Women and Violence Against Women and Girls Insights Gathering Project” (November 2023). In March 2023, Public Health Scotland commissioned the Improvement Service to coordinate an Insights Gathering project on the experiences of minority ethnic women experiencing violence against women and girls (VAWG) in Scotland, and produce a report of the key findings. It is intended to provide insight into the responses required from VAWG policy and practice to improve the lives of minority ethnic women and girls and address the inequalities they experience as victims and survivors of violence and abuse. The project took place from April - August 2023 with the aim of producing a learning report

University of Strathclyde published:

  • “Falling between the cracks: contradictions in approaches to protecting girls and women from Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) in Scotland” (2021) Qualitative: participatory doctoral research conducted in collaboration with Glasgow Saheliya Champions for Change group, including in-depth interviews, focus groups and art-based methods to explore community perspectives and experiences of cultural change and vulnerability to FGM and other forms of gender based violence among migrant communities Scotland. Includes vital recommendations to improve support for FGM-affected women, many of whom are asylum-seekers and refugees. It also explains how FGM intersects with immigration control, child protection and other forms of abuse

Zero Tolerance published:

  • “Future Tales” In the summer of 2022, seven creative workshops were run in Edinburgh and Glasgow with 78 women and one non-binary person from marginalised communities, including minority ethnic communities. The project explored issues such as racism, Islamophobia, xenophobia and the cultural context of violence against women and girls. Participants were asked to imagine a Scotland without violence against women and girls. They spoke, and created art about what this would look like.

Missing People Charity and its research is UK wide, but they responded to our 2021 survey aimed at academics and researchers based in Scotland to tell us about their work, which was included in in the 2022 paper which summarised academic research relating to ethnicity and justice in Scotland.

Research that includes an element on ethnicity

Some organisations told us about research projects where ethnicity was not central to the research project, but was included. For example, research where the ethnicity of participants was collected and recorded as part of a wider sample, but numbers are not large enough to allow for analysis by ethnicity, or where issues related to ethnicity are discussed within an evidence review, but are not the main focus of the review. Research is listed alphabetically by organisation.

Police Scotland and the Scottish Institute for Policing Research:

  • “Police Scotland’s use of Body Worn Video: Public Engagement and Rapid Evidence Review”. This work informs the roll-out of Body Worn Video to more areas of policing – ensuring that Police Scotland maintain and enhance public confidence in this area of new technology adoption for policing in Scotland, and to ensure that policy and practice is shaped by public’s views. Public engagement was carried out between June and September 2021, in the form of a survey with over 9,000 responses and focus groups with nearly 100 members of the public from seldom-heard communities, including women’s support organisations, asylum seekers, refugees and young people. The Rapid Evidence Review consisted of a literature review and a sequence of semi-structured interview with body worn video experts in November and December 2021. Factors relating to race and ethnicity were included in the rapid evidence review

Publications include:

The Scottish Centre for Crime and Justice Research carried out and published the following two pieces of research:

  • “Measuring Justice: Defining Concepts, Developing Practice”  (November 2022) - Assessing and synthesising evidence on experiences of (criminal) justice, noting vast majority of research focuses on victim experiences, and most of this does not specifically attend to ethnic minority experiences; in Scotland this is even more the case
  • “Scotland in Lockdown” (December 2022) Experiences of COVID-19 pandemic lockdown of those in groups already facing isolation and marginalisation; included experiences of various minorities, including refugees and people seeking asylum as well as ethnic minorities, among those in prison, surviving domestic abuse and sexual violence and dealing with a long-term health condition or disability

The Scottish Children’s Reporter Administration published the following research:

  • “Children who offend at the age of 12-15” (2022) To provide evidence to the Scottish Government in reviewing the age of criminal responsibility. Looking at trends in numbers of children referred and the volume and gravity of their offending; and links between offending and vulnerability/ adversity/ trauma. Information on children’s ethnicity was collected in this research. The research was based on a sample of 400 children’s case files held on its case management system

The Scottish Courts and Tribunals Service conducted a Court User Satisfaction Survey. The Court User Satisfaction Survey is designed to measure court users’ satisfaction with the facilities and services provided by the Scottish Courts and Tribunals Service in courts across Scotland. Ethnicity data is collected as demographic of those who respond to survey, and an ethnic profile of respondents is included, but findings are not broken down by ethnicity.

The Scottish Legal Aid Board carried out a range of “Customer Surveys”, across different customer groups. Survey respondent’s ethnicity was gathered using the Scotland Census question set. The surveys also included an open question where the person can disclose if anything about who they are, or their situation made it difficult to access services – including their race.

The Scottish Policing Authority carried out and published reports on the following two projects:

  • “Public polling: regular (six monthly) public polling at a national level on confidence in policing” In each one-off survey the sample size is too small to present findings by ethnicity or perform intersectional analysis e.g., age and gender and region of Scotland.  The intention is to build up a sample over a number of years that would be large enough to drill down into the data, including by ethnicity. Most recent polling reports available:
  • Stop & Search performance across Scotland, England and Wales, 2021-22 (June 2023) Analysis of published Police Scotland Stop and Search data with a focus on how this compares to similar data from England and Wales, both as a whole and for individual forces identified as Police Scotland’s most similar groups. While ethnicity is not central to this report it is included as part of the analysis of the demographics of those stopped and searched alongside age and gender.

University of Edinburgh - Edinburgh Law School, and University of Stirling - Faculty of Social Sciences published the following piece of research:



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