- In 2012-13 687 charges were reported with a religious aggravation under section 74 of the Criminal Justice (Scotland) Act 2003. This is a 24% decrease compared to 2011-12. There were 9011 charges reported in 2011-12, and 696 in 2010-11. The figures for the preceding five years were relatively stable, with between 600 and 700 charges reported each year.
- This reduction may have been partly due to the use of section 1 of the Offensive Behaviour at Football and Threatening Communications (Scotland) Act 2012, (which came into force on 1 March 2012). The Act criminalises religious hatred that is connected to football and may be used instead of section 74 in certain circumstances. The accompanying report2 shows that there were 75 additional charges3 relating to religious charges under this legislation during 2012-13. When added together there were therefore 762 charges relating to religious prejudice in 2012-13 when both pieces of legislation are considered (which still represents a decrease from 2011-12).
- Similar to previous years, a substantial proportion (40.9%) of all charges were in Glasgow, 91% were male and 48.6% of all accused were between the ages of 16 and 30. The accused was described by the police as being under the influence of alcohol in 48.5% of charges.
- The number of football-related charges has decreased since last year from 267(30.5% of the total) in 2011-12, to 109 (15.9%) in 2012-13. The number of charges occurring in football stadiums has also decreased from 67 in 2011-12 (7.6%), to 27 in 2012-13 (3.9%). This reduction also may have been due to the use of section 1 of the Offensive Behaviour at Football and Threatening Communications (Scotland) Act (2012) for religiously offensive football-related behaviour. This legislation resulted in an extra 75 religious charges that were related to football, so there were 184 football-related charges that contained religious prejudice, when both pieces of legislation are considered (which still represents a decrease from the 267 charges reported in 2011-12).
- As with 2011-12 and 2012-13, Roman Catholicism and Protestantism were most often the religions that were the subject of abuse but there was a 24% decrease in the number of charges that referred to Roman Catholicism, from 509 charges (58.1% of the total) in 2011-12 to 388 charges (56.5%) in 2012-13. There was a 44% decrease in the charges that referred to Protestantism from 353 (40.3%) in 2011-12 to 199 (29.0%) in 2012-13.
- There has been an increase in charges where conduct was derogatory towards Islam, from 19 charges (2.2% of the total) in 2011-12 to 80 charges (11.6% of the total) in 2012-13. This can be explained by one incident at a march in Glasgow, in which there were 57 anti-Islam charges. There was also an increase in the charges that referred to Judaism from 14 (1.6%) in 2011-12 to 27 (3.9%) in 2012-13.
- Police officers were the most common target of religiously aggravated abuse with 273 charges (39.7%), a decrease from 449 (51.3%) in 2011-12. The occasions when religious abuse targeted people within the 'general community' and not a particular individual, represented a third (33.6%) of all charges.
- There were 262 convictions from 313 concluded main charges, which is an overall conviction rate of 84%. The most common disposal recorded was a monetary penalty (39.7%); which was a slight decrease from 43.0% in 2011-12. The figures show a slight increase in the proportion of charges which resulted in a community penalty (23.3%, compared to 21.8% in 2011-12) and custody (22.9% compared to 20.4% in 2011-12).
Email: Ben Cavanagh
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