In 2014-15, 569 charges were reported with a religious aggravation under section 74 of the Criminal Justice (Scotland) Act 2003. This represents a decrease of 4% from 2013-14, a decrease of 17% from 2012-13, and a decrease of 37% from 2011-12. There were 591 charges reported in 2013-14, 689 charges reported in 2012-13 and 897 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 three years by the separate use of charges under section 1 of the Offensive Behaviour at Football and Threatening Communications (Scotland) Act 2012 (OBFTC). This legislation came into force on 1st 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 2014-15. The total number of 'religiously prejudicial' charges in 2014-15 (i.e. section 74 charges added to the religiously prejudicial charges under section 1 and 6 of the OBFTC Act) is 617 (a 3% decrease of the corresponding figure in 2013-14 (639), a decrease of 19% since 2012-13 (764) and a decrease of 31% since 2011-12 (897)).
Similar to previous years, a substantial proportion (35%) of all charges were in Glasgow (35% in 2013-14, 41% in 2012-13), 92% were male (90% in 2013-14, 91% in 2012-13), and 44% were between the ages of 16 and 30 (47% in 2013-14 and 49% in 2012-13). The accused was noted to be under the influence of alcohol in 50% of charges.
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 96 charges (16%) in 2013-14 to 64 charges (11%) in 2014-15. The number of charges occurring in football stadiums has also decreased from 16 in 2013-14 to 8 in 2014-15.
This reduction may also have been due to the use of the Offensive Behaviour at Football and Threatening Communications (Scotland) Act, which counted for an extra 48 religious charges related to football in 2014-5. In total there were 112 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 decrease from the 144 in 2013-14).
As with 2011-12, 2012-13 and 2013-14, Roman Catholicism and Protestantism were most often the religions that were the subject of abuse. There was a decrease in the number of charges and proportion that referred to Roman Catholicism, from 367 charges (63%) in 2013-14 to 328 charges (58%) in 2014-15. There was also a decrease in the charges that referred to Protestantism from 169 charges (29%) to 145 charges (25%) in 2014-15.
There was an increase of four percentage points in the proportion of charges where conduct was derogatory towards Islam, from 8% of the total (48 charges) in 2013-14 to 12% of the total (71 charges) in 2014-15. Charges for conduct derogatory towards Judaism also increased by two percentage points from 2% of the total (9 charges) in 2013-14 to 4% of the total (25 charges) in 2014-15.
Police officers were the most common target for religiously aggravated abuse 233 charges (41%), a decrease from 273 charges and a similar proportion (40%) in 2013-14. The occasions when behaviour targeted people within the 'general community', and not a particular individual, represented 36% of all charges. This is an increase from 2013-14 (26%) but similar to 2012-13 when 34% of the charges targeted people within 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 206 convictions from 244 concluded main charges (84%). The most common disposal recorded was a monetary penalty (37%); similar to 2013-14 (39%) and 2012-13 (40%).
Email: Ben Cavanagh
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