Information

Religiously Aggravated Offending in Scotland 2011-12

A breakdown of religious aggravations charges (section 74 of the Criminal Justice (Scotland) Act 2010) in Scotland in 2011-12.


3. Findings

Sex/age of the accused

3.1 Of the 876[8] charges that were analysed in this research, 93% related to male accused, and 58% of all accused were between the ages of 16 and 30. Table 1 shows the age breakdown of the accused for each of the 876 religious aggravation charges.

Table 1: Age breakdown of accused

2010-11 2011-12
Age group Number of charges % Number of charges %
Under 16 24 3.5 5 0.6
16-20 143 20.6 178 20.3
21-30 257 37.1 331 37.8
31-40 120 17.3 184 21.0
41-50 98 14.1 118 13.5
51-60 32 4.6 41 4.7
Over 60 17 2.5 18 2.1
Unknown 2 0.3 1 0.1
Total 693 100 876 100

Location of offences

3.2 Table 2 shows the local authority areas where charges occurred. The majority took place in the west of Scotland; 40% were in Glasgow. Outside of Glasgow, there were relatively higher numbers of charges in North Lanarkshire, South Lanarkshire, Edinburgh City and Falkirk. This higher prevalence is evident also when controlling for population density. There were reported charges in every local authority area, in contrast to 2010-11 when there were 5 areas with no charges. There are however large areas of Scotland where there are few religious aggravations charges reported and only one charge was reported in 4 local authority areas.

3.3 All local authorities have seen an increase in the rate of charges since 2010-11, apart from East Renfrewshire and Midlothian where there were the same number and Glasgow, Scottish Borders, South Ayrshire and West Lothian, where there were fewer charges.

Table 2: Local authority area where charges occurred in 2011-12 [9]

2010-11 2011-12
Local authority area Number of
charges
% No of
charges per
100,000 population
Number of
charges
% No of
charges per
100,000 population
Aberdeen City 9 1.3 4 16 1.8 7
Aberdeenshire 0 0 0 5 0.6 2
Angus 1 0.1 1 4 0.5 4
Argyll & Bute 7 1 8 21 2.4 23
Clackmannanshire 2 0.3 4 12 1.4 24
Dumfries & Galloway 5 0.7 3 19 2.2 13
Dundee City 4 0.6 3 9 1.0 6
East Ayrshire 2 0.3 2 20 2.3 17
East Dunbartonshire 1 0.1 1 2 0.2 2
East Lothian 0 0 0 2 0.2 2
East Renfrewshire 5 0.7 6 5 0.6 6
Edinburgh City 22 3.2 5 48 5.5 10
Western Isles 0 0 0 1 0.1 4
Falkirk 30 4.3 20 41 4.7 27
Fife 9 1.3 2 18 2.1 5
Glasgow City 356 51.4 60 353 40.3 59
Highland 5 0.7 2 9 1.0 4
Inverclyde 12 1.7 15 14 1.6 18
Midlothian 2 0.3 2 2 0.2 2
Moray 1 0.1 1 4 0.5 5
North Ayrshire 16 2.3 12 23 2.6 17
North Lanarkshire 78 11.3 24 84 9.6 26
Orkney Islands 0 0 0 1 0.1 5
Perth & Kinross 3 0.4 2 9 1.0 6
Renfrewshire 16 2.3 9 33 3.8 19
Scottish Borders 7 1 6 1 0.1 1
Shetland Islands 0 0 0 1 0.1 4
South Ayrshire 10 1.4 9 8 0.9 7
South Lanarkshire 33 4.8 11 42 4.8 13
Stirling 10 1.4 11 22 2.5 24
West Dunbartonshire 12 1.7 13 27 3.1 30
West Lothian 35 5.1 20 10 1.1 6
Unknown 10 1.1
Total 693 100 13.2 876 100 16.7

Locus of charges

3.4 Just over a fifth (23%) of all charges occurred in a police car/station and 20% took place in a 'main street'[10] in a town or city centre. These are similar proportions to 2010-11.

3.5 Charges in residential areas have increased from 12% in 2010-11 to 19% in 2011-12. Football stadiums were the locus for a fewer number of charges than in 2010-11, in terms of numbers and also as a proportion of the charges. They were the locus for 67 charges (8%) in 2011-12 compared with 90 (13%) in 2010-11. Seven percent of charges occurred on public transport or at a public transport station compared with 13% in 2010-11.

Table 3: Locus of offences

2010-11 2011-12
Locus of Offence Number of charges % Number of charges %
Police Car/Station 134 19.3 199 22.7
Main Street 145 20.9 175 20.0
Residential Area 82 11.8 162 18.5
Domestic Dwelling 66 9.5 97 11.1
Football Stadium 90 12.9 67 7.6
Public Transport 91 13.1 60 6.8
Pub/Club 37 5.3 33 3.8
Hospital 12 1.7 23 2.6
Other 46 6.6 71 8.1

Note: charges do not add up to 876 because an incident may fall into more than one locus type, for example a public transport station outside a football stadium.

Football and marches/parades

3.6 The analysis included looking at the number of religious aggravation charges which were related in some way to football or marches and parades, for example if the incident took place at a football match/screening or a march or parade, or if the police noted the relevance of a football association within the description of the incident[11]. Again, this finding is based on the information recorded in police reports and may under-report the links to football and marches/parades if the police did not note this.

3.7 Also, as noted in the introduction, new legislation was introduced on 1 March 2012, (Offensive Behaviour at Football and Threatening Communications (Scotland) Act 2012)[12] which criminalises offensive behaviour at or around football matches including offensive singing or chanting. Offences which might before this time have been dealt with under section 74 of the Criminal Justice (Scotland) Act 2003, might from this date have been dealt with under the new legislation. This may have been responsible for a reduction in the number of football-related religious aggravations in March 2012.

3.8 According to the police reports 31%[13] of the incidents were directly linked to football and just 2% were related to marches or parades.

Table 4: Charges linked to football and marches/parades

2010-11 2011-12
Number of charges % Number of charges %
Football 231 33.3 267 30.5
Marches/Parades 32 4.6 18 2.1

Note: the rows show the charges linked to football and marches/parades as a proportion of all charges.

3.9 Within the 267 football-related charges, 67 occurred at a football stadium, or a public transport station at a football stadium. The other football-related charges took place in settings such as public transport, main streets in town and city centres and residential areas. The number of football-related charges has increased from 231 in 2010-11 to 267 in 2011-12 but the proportion of all charges has decreased from 33% to 31%.

3.10 The number of incidents that took place at Celtic Park and Ibrox have reduced in the last 12 months. Of the 67 charges which happened at football stadiums, 15 (22%) related to incidents which occurred at Celtic Park and 15 occurred at Ibrox. Data from 2010-11 showed that 47 charges (52%) took place at Celtic Park and 24 charges (27%) at Ibrox.

3.11 This information relates only to the stadium where the incident took place and makes no inference to the club affiliations of the victims or the accused, or whether these were 'home' or 'away' supporters.

Table 5: Charges at football stadiums

Football Stadium Number of Charges %
Celtic Park 15 22.4
Ibrox Stadium 15 22.4
Tynecastle Stadium 9 13.4
Hampden Park 4 6.0
East End Park 4 6.0
Other 20 29.9
Total 67 100.0

Religious beliefs/affiliations that were targeted

3.12 Information about the nature of the religiously offensive conduct which related to the aggravation was taken from the police report of the incident. There is no separate section within police reports for the police to state which religious belief in their view was targeted. Therefore an assessment was made by the researchers involved in this work on the religion which appeared to be targeted based on a description of the incident and the details about what was said or done by the accused. The religious beliefs or affiliations of the accused or the victims of the offence are not formally recorded anywhere in the report as they are not relevant to the definition of the crime in the law. This report does not therefore present information about the religious beliefs or affiliations of the people targeted by the offensive conduct.

3.13 Charges referred to conduct which was derogatory towards Roman Catholicism in 509 charges (58% of the total) and derogatory towards Protestantism in 353 charges (40% of the total charges). Islam was the other religion which saw an increase from 15 to 19 charges. The number of charges derogatory towards Judaism reduced slightly from 16 to 14.

3.14 The proportions of charges derogatory towards religious beliefs/affiliations within the total number of charges are generally similar to 2010-11, the main difference was a slight rise in the proportion of anti-Protestantism charges from 37% to 40%.

Table 6: Religious group targeted in 2011-12.

2010-11 2011-12
Religion Targeted Number of charges % Number of charges %
Roman Catholicism 400 57.7 509 58.1
Protestantism 253 36.5 353 40.3
Islam 15 2.1 19 2.2
Judaism 16 2.3 14 1.6
Christianity (General) 4 0.6 3 0.3
Unknown 8 1.2 2 0.2

Note: charges do not add up to 876 as some charges related to conduct which targeted more than one religious group.

Victims

3.15 Information about the people targeted by the religious aggravation is not separately recorded in the police report and for the purpose of this analysis the researchers made an assessment of the victims, based on the police description of the incident. The victim was defined as the main target for the religiously offensive part of the offence. This may have been a specific individual, a member of the public, police officer or worker or it may have been the general community, for example if someone was singing a religiously offensive song that was not directed at anyone in particular. Each charge may have included multiple victim 'types'.

3.16 The police were victims of religious abuse in just over half (51%) of the charges and were the most common target. Police officers were also the most common target last year. These charges often related to incidents where the police had arrested the accused for another offence and were then abused in religiously offensive terms afterwards. The general community were targeted in 30% of the charges and members of the public in 31% of the charges. Workers, such as hospital staff, security staff and taxi drivers, were targeted in 13% of charges. The majority of the victims were police officers and workers. This suggests that for the majority of charges it is unlikely the accused knew the religious affiliation/belief of the victim at the time of incident and that the religious abuse was more arbitrary in nature.

Table 7: Victims of religious aggravation.

2010-11 2011-12
Victim Number of charges % Number of charges %
Police officer/s 288 41.5 449 51.3
Community 229 33.0 259 29.6
Member of the public 157 22.6 271 30.9
Worker/s 73 10.5 117 13.4

Note: charges do not add up to 876 because some charges related to behaviour which targeted more than one victim or victim type.

Alcohol and drug related charges

3.17 The accused was described by the police as being under the influence of alcohol in 57% of the charges This finding is based on the information recorded in police reports and may under-report the alcohol links to the offending if there were charges where the police did not note that the accused had been drinking. It was also not possible to quantify the amount of alcohol consumed in any given case. For drugs related charges, 9% of the charges referred to incidents where the police reported the accused as possessing drugs or suspected they had taken drugs before the offence.

Table 8: Alcohol and drugs related charges

2010-11 2011-12
Number of charges % Number of charges %
Drink 424 61.1 498 56.8
Drugs 41 5.9 75 8.6

Note: the rows show the charges linked to alcohol and drugs as a proportion of all charges. Some may have included both drink and drugs.

Main charges

3.18 Table 9 shows that aggravations are now most commonly added to 'threatening and abusive behavior' charges from section 38 of the 'Criminal Justice and Licensing (Scotland) Act 2010'. This was the main charge for 47% of aggravations and breach of the peace was the main charge for 42% of aggravations. This is a change since 2010-11 when breach of the peace was the main charge, for 73% of aggravations. The 'threatening and abusive behaviour charge' was however only available for part of the 2010-11 year, it came into force on 6 October 2010.

Table 9: Main charges that aggravations were added to

2010-11 2011-12
Main Charge Number of charges % Number of charges %
Breach of the Peace 503 72.5 365 41.7
Threatening or Abusive Behaviour 99 14.2 414 47.3
Assault 39 5.6 35 4.0
Other 52 7.5 62 7.1
Total 693 100 876 100

3.19 Table 10 shows a breakdown of the main charges by religion. There is a similar proportional spread in the charges for breach of the peace and threatening or abusive behaviour given for offences against Roman Catholicism and Protestantism. Over a quarter (26%) of charges for behaviour derogatory towards Islam were for assault, compared with 3% for Roman Catholicism and 5% for Protestantism.

Table 10: A breakdown of main charges by religion

Main Charge Roman Catholicism Protestantism Islam Judaism Christianity (General)
Charges % Charges % Charges % Charges % Charges %
Assault 14 2.8 16 4.5 5 26.3 0 0.0 0 0.0
Breach of the Peace 215 42.2 147 41.6 5 26.3 6 42.9 1 33.3
Communications Act 7 1.4 3 0.8 0 0.0 2 14.3 0 0.0
Threatening or Abusive Behaviour 249 48.9 165 46.7 6 31.6 5 35.7 1 33.3
Other 24 4.7 22 6.2 3 15.8 1 7.1 1 33.3
Total 509 100.0 353 100.0 19 100.0 14 100.0 3 100.0

Court proceedings

3.20 Of the 876 charges that were analysed in this research, court proceedings were initiated for 771 (88%) of the charges.

3.21 Some court cases may be ongoing but information from the COPFS case management database shows that court proceedings had been concluded for 633 of these charges. Of this number 505 charges resulted in convictions. As shown in table 11 the most common disposal recorded was a monetary penalty (43%), a community penalty[14] was given for 110 charges (22%) and custody for 103 charges (20%). Other[15] disposals were recorded for the remaining 75 charges (15%).

Table 11: Recorded disposals

2010-11 2011-12
Disposal Number of charges % Number of charges %
Monetary Penalty 163 41.8 217 43.0
Community Penalty 99 25.4 110 21.8
Custody 70 17.9 103 20.4
Other 58 14.9 75 14.9
Total 390 100.0 505 100.0

Contact

Email: Ben Cavanagh

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