- There has been an increase in the number of recorded religious aggravation charges in 2011-12 compared with previous years. For this report, 876 charges with a religious aggravation reported in 2011-12 were analysed, compared with 693 charges in 2010-11. This is an increase of 26%. As COPFS have suggested, this increase may be partly due to increased awareness, reporting and recording of these crimes, following several incidents which received media attention during 2011-12.
- A substantial proportion (40%) of all charges were in Glasgow, 93% of the accused were male and 58% were between the ages of 16 and 30. Fifty-seven percent of all charges were reported by the police as being alcohol related. Glasgow was one of the four local authority areas where there was a reduction in the number of aggravations compared to the previous year. The data analysed in this report did not however allow for further explanations of regional differences.
- Although the number of football-related charges rose in the last year by 16% (from 231 to 267) the proportion went down from 33% to 31% of charges. The number of charges occurring in football stadiums also decreased from 90 (13%) to 67 (8%). 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, established in 2011.
- Roman Catholicism and Protestantism were most often the religions that were the subject of abuse. The proportional spread of the religions that were targeted was similar to the previous year: 57.7% in 2010-11 and 58.1% in 2011-12 for Roman Catholicism; and 36.5% in 2010-11 and 40.3% in 2011-12 for Protestantism.
- Police officers were the most common target of religiously aggravated offending, in over half (51%) of all charges. The occasions when religious abuse targeted people within the 'general community' and not a particular individual, represented 30% of all charges, a proportional reduction since 2010-11.
- There has been a slight rise since 2010-11 in the use of custody for religiously aggravated offences. The figures show that 43% of charges resulted in fines in 11-12 (42% in 10-11), 22% community penalty in 11-12 (25% in 10-11), 20% custody in 11-12 (18% in 10-11) and 14.9% 'other' in 11-12, which is exactly the same as 10-11.
- Although this research provides insight into the nature of religious offending and will enable comparisons for analysis of trends in future years, there are, as noted in chapter 3 of this report, a number of qualifications for the understanding of this information which means that this report presents only a partial view of the nature of religiously motivated offending in Scotland. To understand changes in the number of charges with a religious aggravation, there is a need to know more about the enforcement strategies of the police.
Email: Ben Cavanagh