- In 2013-14, 587 charges were reported with a religious aggravation under section 74 of the Criminal Justice (Scotland) Act 2003. This is a 15% decrease compared to 2012-13 and a 35% decrease since 2011-12. There were 689 charges reported in 2012-13 and 898 charges reported in 2011-12. The figures for the preceding five years were relatively stable, with between 600 and 700 charges reported each year.
- These trends may have been influenced in the last two years by the separate use of charges under section 1 of the Offensive Behaviour at Football and Threatening Communications (Scotland) Act 2012. This legislation came into force on 1 March 2012, and criminalises religious hatred that is connected to football. It may be used instead of section 74 in certain circumstances. There were 48 additional 'religious' charges under this legislation during 2013-14. When all legislation is considered (i.e. when section 74 charges are added to the sections 1 and 6 (offensive behaviour at football and threatening communications legislation) charges) there are a total of 635 charges relating to religious prejudice in Scotland in 2013-14 (a 17% decrease on the corresponding figure in 2012-13 (762 charges) and a 29% decrease since 2011-12 when there were 898 religious charges reported under section 74).
- Similar to previous years, a substantial proportion (35%) of all charges were in Glasgow (41% in 2012-13), 90% were male (91% in 2012-13) and 47% of all accused were between the ages of 16 and 30 (49% in 2012-13). The accused was described by the police as being under the influence of alcohol in 59% of charges. This is an increase since 2012-13 where 49% of the accused were under the influence of alcohol.
- The number of football-related section 74 charges (e.g. if the police noted the relevance of a football association within the description of the charge) has decreased since last year, from 109 (16% of the total) in 2012-13, to 96 (16%) in 2013-14. The number of charges occurring in football stadiums has also decreased from 27 in 2012-13 (4%), to 16 in 2013-14 (3%).
- This reduction may also have been due to the use of the Offensive Behaviour at Football and Threatening Communications (Scotland) Act 2012, which accounted for an extra 48 religious charges related to football in 2013-14. In total, there were 144 football-related charges that contained religious prejudice, when both section 74 (religious aggravation charges) and the relevant parts of the offensive behaviour at football legislation are considered (which still represents a 22% decrease from the 184 charges reported in 2012-13).
- As with 2011-12 and 2012-13, Roman Catholicism and Protestantism were most often the religions that were the subject of abuse. There was a decrease in the number of charges (although an increased proportion) that referred to Roman Catholicism, from 388 charges (57% of the total) in 2012- 13 to 367 charges (63%) in 2013-14. There was also a decrease in the charges that referred to Protestantism from 199 (29%) in 2012-13 to 169 (29%) in 2013-14.
- There has been a decrease in charges where conduct was derogatory towards Islam, from 80 charges (12% of the total) in 2012-13 to 48 charges (8% of the total) in 2013-14. There was also a decrease in the charges that referred to Judaism from 27 (4%) in 2012-13 to 9 (2%) in 2013-14.
- Police officers were the most common target of religiously aggravated abuse in 282 charges (48%), an increase from 273 (40%) in 2012-13. The occasions when religious abuse targeted people within the 'general community, and not a particular individual, represented just over a quarter (26%) of all charges. This is a decrease from 2012-13 where 34% of abuse targeted the general community.
- Many cases are on-going and information about final convictions will be presented in Scottish Government 'criminal proceedings' publications. Provisional data shows that there were 238 convictions from 280 concluded main charges (85%). The most common disposal recorded was a monetary penalty (39%); similar to 2012-13 (40%). The figures show an increase in the proportion of charges which resulted in a community penalty (30%, compared to 23% in 2012-13).
Email: Ben Cavanagh