Religiously aggravated offending in Scotland 2016-2017

Analysis of charges reported under the Offensive Behaviour at Football and Threatening Communications (Scotland) Act 2012.

Executive Summary

In 2016-17, 673 charges were reported to the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service of Scotland ( COPFS) with a religious aggravation under section 74 of the Criminal Justice (Scotland) Act 2003. This is an increase of 14% from the 592 charges reported in 2015-16, although the number of charges reported each year fluctuate (see Table 1 of this report).

In the last five years, the numbers of religiously aggravated charges may have been influenced by the separate use of charges under section 1 of the Offensive Behaviour at Football and Threatening Communications (Scotland) Act 2012 ( OBFTCA). 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 46 additional 'religious' charges [1] under this legislation during 2016-17. 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 719 charges relating to religious prejudice in Scotland in 2016-17; this is an increase from 642 (12%) in 2015-16.

Roman Catholicism is the religion that was most often the subject of reported abuse, with 384 charges for 2016-17. This is an increase of 28% from 299 charges in 2015-16, and is also higher than the 328 charges in 2014-2015. However, this is fewer than the numbers reported in previous years. The proportion of charges where Roman Catholicism was the subject of abuse has also increased slightly since 2015-16: from 51% to 57% in 2016-17. This increase is likely to be connected to a rise in charges where the police and community are the victim.

Protestantism and Islam are the religions that were subject to the next highest number of aggravations in 2016-17. There were 165 charges related to Protestantism in 2016-17; this is an increase of 24 charges between 2015-16 and 2016-17. The proportion of charges that were derogatory towards Protestantism has remained similar, from 24% to 25% of all charges in these respective years.

The number of charges where conduct was derogatory towards Islam has decreased by 16% from 2015-16, from 134 charges to 113 charges.

Charges for conduct derogatory towards Judaism increased from 18 charges to 23 between 2015-16 and 2016-17 but the overall proportion of all charges involving derogatory conduct towards Judaism has remained the same over this period (3%).

As with previous years, Glasgow had the highest concentration of charges with 203 (30% of total charges) and the highest charges per head of population with 33 per 100,000 population.

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 increased since 2015-16, from 50 to 72 charges; an increase of 44%. Of these football related charges in 2016-17, 13 were also Section 1 offences under the OBFTCA; this is 18% of all football related charges. The number of charges occurring in football stadiums has decreased, from 15 in 2015-16 to 10 in 2016-17.

The majority of the charges (91%) relate to male accuseds.

41% of charges noted an accused between the ages of <16 and 30; this is the same proportion as 2015-16, but this represents an increase in actual number of charges, from 239 in 2015-16 to 273 in 2016-17 (an increase of 34 charges).

The accused was noted to be under the influence of alcohol in 52% of charges; a slight increase from 2015-16 when this was noted in 46% of charges.

Police officers were the most common target for religiously aggravated abuse. In 2016-17 there were 293 charges (44%) where the police was the victim. This is a similar proportion to 2015-16, when this was 41%, but there were fewer charges in 2015-16 where police were the victim (236 charges).

Many cases are on-going and information about final convictions will be presented in Scottish Government 'criminal proceedings' publications. [2] Provisional data shows that of the 369 concluded charges, 307 resulted in a conviction .

The most common disposal recorded was community penalty (33%). This is a similar proportion to that reported in 2015-16.


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