Religiously Aggravated Offending in Scotland 2015-16

Analysis of charges reported under the act to provide information about the nature of the religiously aggravated offending charges, the accused and the victims of incidents.

Executive summary

In 2015-16, 581 charges were reported with a religious aggravation under section 74 of the Criminal Justice (Scotland) Act 2003. This is a slight increase of 3% from the 566 charges reported in 2014-15. Prior to this, religiously aggravated charges had been steadily decreasing from a peak of 896 charges in 2011-12. The figures for the five years prior to 2011-12 were relatively stable, with between 600 and 700 charges reported each year.

These trends may have been influenced in the last four 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 1 st March 2012, and, among other things, criminalises religious hatred that is connected to football. It may be used instead of section 74 in certain circumstances. There were 50 additional 'religious' charges [1] under this legislation during 2015-16. When all legislation is considered (i.e. when section 74 charges are added to the section 1 and 6, offensive behaviour at football and threatening communications charges) there is a total of 631 charges relating to religious prejudice in Scotland in 2015-16 (a slight increase from 614 (3%) in 2014-15).

Roman Catholicism is the religion that was most often the subject of abuse, but this number has been falling steadily over recent years - from 388 in 2012-13, 367 in 2013-14, 328 in 2014-15 and 299 in 2015-16. Protestantism and Islam are the religions that were subject to the next highest number of aggravations in 2015-16. There were 141 charges related to Protestantism in 2015-16, but this number has fallen from 199 in 2012-13, 169 in 2013-14, and 145 in 2014-15. In contrast charges where conduct was derogatory to Islam have nearly doubled (up 89%) from 71 charges (12% of the total) in 2014-15 to 134 charges (23%) in 2015-16. Unlike a previous year (2012-13) where there was an increase in charges targeting Islam that was related to a specific event, the rise this year is not attributable to a single event or pattern, and appears to reflect a general rise in the reporting of these types of charges.

The number of charges with religious aggravations recorded in Glasgow, the local authority with the highest proportion of charges (30%), decreased by 11% - from 197 charges in 2014-15 to 176.

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 64 charges in 2014-15 to 50. The number of charges occurring in football stadiums is similar; there were 16 charges in stadiums in 2014-15 and 15 in 2015-16.

Again this reduction may also have been due to the use of OBFTC, which counted for an extra 50 religious charges related to football in 2015-16. In total there were 100 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 (this is an 11% decrease from the 112 football related charges in 2014-15).

The majority of the charges (90%) related to male accused. Forty-one per cent of the charges noted an accused between the ages of 16 and 30 (44% in 2014-15, 47% in 2013-14, and 48% in 2012-13). The accused was noted to be under the influence of alcohol in 46% of charges.

Police officers were the most common target for religiously aggravated abuse. In 2015-16 there were 236 charges (41%) where the police were the victim. This is similar to the 233 charges (41%) in 2014-15.

The general community (e.g. people who happened to be in the vicinity, but were not directly targeted by the accused) were the victim in 111 charges (19% of total) 2015-16 - a decrease from 205 charges (36% of total) in 2014-15.

Members of the public were the victims in 148 charges (25 of total) in 2015-16 - a decrease from 169 (30% of total) in 2014-15.

There was an increase in the number of charges where workers were the victims: from 85 in 2014-15 to 99. The 'workers' category includes hospital staff, security staff, shop workers, taxi drivers, takeaway servers, and religious officials [2] .

Many cases are on-going and information about final convictions will be presented in Scottish Government 'criminal proceedings' publications [3] . Provisional data shows that of the 295 concluded charges 251 resulted in a conviction (85%).

The most common disposal recorded was a monetary penalty (37%). This is the same as 2014-15 and similar to 2013-14 (39%) and 2012-13 (40%).


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