Number of charges
There were 673 charges with a religious aggravation reported in 2016-17. This is an increase of 14% from the 592 charges reported in 2015-16. As demonstrated in Table 1, the number of charges reported each year fluctuates, and has done so over the ten year period analysed. The average number of charges over the last ten years is 661; the charges reported for 2016-17 are in line with this.
Table 1 below shows a breakdown of the charges reported to the COPFS between 2007 and 2016. It should be noted that COPFS statistics are based on a live database and therefore the figures reported in Table 1 do not exactly match those previously published in COPFS and Scottish Government reports. The database may change; for example if the Procurator Fiscal amends a charge the database will only hold details of the amended charge. The comparisons in the remainder of this report are based on the total number of charges that were analysed and included in the past reports for 2011-12, 2012-13, 2013-14, 2014-15, and 2015-16, by the Scottish Government at the time that research was carried out.
Table 1: Charges reported to the COPFS: 2007-08 - 2016-17 
The number of charges may have been influenced in the last five years by the separate use of charges under section 1 of OBFTCA. This legislation, which came into force on 1 st March 2012, criminalises religious hatred that is connected to football and may be used instead of section 74 legislation (religiously aggravated charges) in certain circumstances. In 2016-17, there were 46 charges  under OBFTC legislation that involved a religious element that may have previously been charged under section 74.
When all legislation is considered (i.e. when section 74 charges are added to the section 1 and 6 OBFTCA charges) there are a total of 719 charges relating to religious prejudice in Scotland in 2016-17 (an increase of 12% from 642 in 2015-16).
Before providing further details of these religiously aggravated charges, it is worth highlighting that these charges do not relate to 673 separate incidents. Many of the incidents which took place involved more than one accused, and/or more than one breach of the law, and will therefore have resulted in more than one charge. The bulk of the analysis in this report relates to 'charges' rather than to separate incidents that were reported by the police to the COPFS.
Details of accused
Sex and age of the accused
In 2016-17, the majority of the charges (91%) related to male accuseds.
Table 2 shows the age breakdown of the accused for each of the 673 religious aggravation charges. Forty one per cent of charges noted an accused aged 30 and under (41% in 2015-16, 44% in 2014-15 and 47% in 2013-14).
Table 2: Age breakdown of the accused for each charge*
|Age group||No. charges||%||No. charges||%||No. charges||%||No. charges||%||No. charges||%|
* Percentages may not add up to 100 because of rounding.
Alcohol and drug-related charges
Table 3 shows that the accused was described by the police as being under the influence of alcohol in 351 of charges (52% of the total) in 2016-17. This finding is based on the information recorded in police reports, therefore this may under-represent the link between alcohol and the offending if there were charges where the police did not note that the accused had been drinking. It was also not possible to quantify the amount of alcohol consumed in any given case.
Drug-related charges refer to incidents where the police reported the accused as possessing drugs or where they suspected that the accused had taken drugs before the charge. In 2016-17 these accounted for 66 charges (10%), an increase from the 33 charges reported in 2015-16.
Table 3: Alcohol and drug-related charges*
|No. charges||%||No. charges||%||No. charges||%||No. charges||%||No. charges||%|
* Some charges may have included the influence of both alcohol and drugs.
Details of the offence
Location of the charges
Table 4 shows the local authority area where the charges occurred. 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.
Other local authorities with higher numbers of charges per head of population in 2016-17 are West Dunbartonshire (26 per 100,000 population), North Lanarkshire (21 per 100,000 population) and North Ayrshire (19 per 100,000 population).
Table 4: Local authority area where charges occurred*
|Local authority||No. charges||%||Charges per 100k pop.||No. charges||%||Charges per 100k pop.||No. charges||%||Charges per 100k pop.||No. charges||%||Charges per 100k|
|Argyll & Bute||6||1||7||10||2||11||3||0.5||3||9||1||10|
|Dumfries & Galloway||11||2||7||8||1||5||13||2||2||19||3||13|
|Eilian Siar (Western Isles)||0||0||0||1||0.2||3||3||0.5||11||2||0.3||7|
|Perth & Kinross||6||1||4||3||1||2||1||0.2||1||8||1||5|
* Scottish Local Authority area population rates for 2016-17 is based on GROS mid-year population rates 2016, rounded to the nearest 1. Available at: https://www.nrscotland.gov.uk/statistics-and-data/statistics/statistics-by-theme/population/population-estimates/mid-year-population-estimates/mid-2016
Locus of the charges
As Table 5 shows, the most common location where charges occurred is in a police car / station (161 charges which is 24% of all charges). The next most common location where charges occurred is in a main street  in a town or city centre, with 127 charges (19%).
The increase in charges occurring in a police car/station may be related to the increase in the number of charges where the police were victims, or alternatively, there may be more police victims because of this increase in charges occurring in these locations. For 2016-17, the number of charges taking place in a domestic dwelling was 84 (13%) and 86 charges (13%) took place in a residential area.
Table 5: Locus of charges *
|Locus||No. charges||%||No. charges||%||No. charges||%||No. charges||%||No. charges||%|
|Place of worship||6||2||7||1||3||0.5||9||2||7||1|
|Other / unspecified||64||9||18||3||79||14||71||12||62||9|
* Charges do not always add up to the total number reported because an incident may fall into more than one locus type.
Timing of the charges
Chart 1 outlines the peak days of the week and times of the day that incidents took place. As with 2015-16, there were typically spikes in religiously aggravated offending on weekday evenings and larger spikes at weekends, particularly on Saturday nights, and the early hours of Sunday mornings.
Chart 1: Time and day of incidents
Football, marches and parades
The analysis included looking at the number of religious aggravation charges that were related in some way to football or marches/parades. This included, for example, if the incident took place at a football match or screening, or at a march or parade, or if the police noted the relevance of a football association within the description of the incident.  Again, this finding is based on the information recorded in the police reports and may under-report the links to football and marches/parades if the police did not note this.
Table 6: Charges linked to football and marches/parades
|No. charges||%||No. charges||%||No. charges||%||No. charges||%||No. charges||%|
Table 6 shows that the proportion of charges that are football related is similar to the proportion reported in 2015-16. However, the number of football-related 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%. Within the football-related charges under section 74, 10 occurred at a football stadium. The other football-related charges took place in settings such as main streets, public transport, residential areas, social media, police car/station, and pub/club.
The OBFTCA criminalises offensive behaviour related to football, including offensive singing or chanting where it is likely to incite public disorder. Some of the charges that might, before this time, have been dealt with under section 74 of the Criminal Justice (Scotland) Act 2003, may from this date have been dealt with under the new legislation.
Under this legislation there were an extra 45 religious charges that were related to football in 2016-17. In total, there were 117 football-related charges reported to the COPFS that contained religious prejudice, when both section 74 (religious aggravation charges) and the relevant parts of the offensive behaviour at football legislation are considered.
Also, as shown in Table 6, the proportion of charges related to marches and parades is the same in 2015-16 and 2016-17, although there is an increase in
the number of charges: from 15 charges (3%) in 2015-16, to 21 charges (3%) in 2016-17.
Religious beliefs/affiliations that were targeted
Information about the nature of the religiously offensive conduct was taken from the police report of the incident. There is no separate section within police reports that states which religious belief, in the reporting police officer's view, was targeted. An assessment was made by analysts about the religion that appeared to be targeted, based on the police description of the incident and the details about what was said or done by the accused. The religious beliefs or affiliations of the accused or the victims of the incident are not formally recorded by the police as they are not relevant to the definition of the crime in the law. This report does not present definitive information about the religious beliefs or affiliations of the people targeted by the offensive conduct.
Table 7 below shows that Roman Catholicism is the religion that was most often the subject of abuse, with 384 charges for 2016-17. This is an increase of 28% from 299 charges in 2015-16. While the numbers of these charges have fluctuated considerably, the proportional spread of the charges has been similar. The increase in the number of charges for 2016-17 is likely to be connected to an increase in reported anti-Catholic abuse directed towards police officers.
There was an increase of 24 charges with conduct derogatory towards Protestantism; from 141 charges to 165. The proportion of charges that were derogatory towards Protestantism has remained similar.
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%).
Table 7: Religious affiliation that was the subject of offensive conduct*
|Religion targeted||No. charges||%||No. charges||%||No. charges||%||No. charges||%||No. charges||%|
* Charges do not add up to the total number reported as some charges related to conduct that targeted more than one religious group.
Details of the victims
Information about the people targeted by the religious aggravation is not separately recorded in the police report and for the purpose of this report the analysts made an assessment of the victims, based on the police description of the incident. The victim was defined as the main target for the religiously offensive part of the charge. This may have been a member of the public, police officer or other worker, or it may have been a member of the community (for example, if someone was singing a religiously offensive song that was not directed at anyone in particular). Each charge may have included multiple victim 'types'.
As shown in Table 8, the number of charges where the police were the victim of religiously aggravated offending has increased by 24% since last year - from 236 charges (41% of the charges) to 293 charges (44% of the total). These charges often relate to incidents where the police arrested the accused for a separate charge (which may not have involved religious prejudice) and were then abused in religiously offensive terms afterwards.
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 194 charges (29% of total) in 2016-17 - an increase from the 111 charges in 2015-16, which made up 19% of the total in that period. This increase reflects an increase in the number of charges for 2016-17 in which multiple victims were noted in the police reports.
Members of the public were the victims in 176 charges (26% of total) in 2016-17. While the number of charges is higher (from 148, an increase of 28 charges), the proportion of charges in which members of the public were victims was the same as 2015-16.
There was an increase in the number of charges where workers were the victims, from 99 in 2015-16 to 107 in 2015-16, an increase of 8 charges. The 'workers' category includes hospital staff, security staff, shop workers, taxi drivers, takeaway servers, and religious officials. Three religious officials were the victims of a religiously aggravated incident in 2016-17; in 2015-16, one religious official was a victim.
Table 8: Victims of religious aggravation*
|Victim||No. charges||%||No. charges||%||No. charges||%||No. charges||%||No. charges||%|
|Member of the public||172||25||161||27||169||30||148||26||176||26|
* Charges do not add up to the total number of reported because some charges related to behaviour that targeted more than one victim or victim type.
Table 9 shows a breakdown of the main charges to which aggravations were added. It shows small increases (or very small decreases in the case of assault and offensive behaviour at football) in the numbers of each of these listed main charges, but also that the proportion of each of these main charges is broadly similar to last year. Charges under the 'threatening and abusive' behaviour (under section 38 of the Criminal Justice and Licensing (Scotland) Act 2010) have increased in 2016-17, following an increase between 2014-15 and 2015-16.
Table 9: Main charges that the religious aggravations were added to * ¥ §
|Main charge||No. charges||%||No. charges||%||No. charges||%||No. charges||%||No. charges||%|
|Breach of the peace||134||20||68||12||54||10||24||4||28||4|
|Threatening or abusive behaviour||385||56||416||71||372||65||427||73||508||75|
|Offensive behaviour at football||35||5||14||2||3||0.5||13||2||15||2|
|Act in a racially aggravated manner||61||9||4||0.7||34||6||18||3||21||3|
* Percentages do not add up to 100 due to rounding.
¥ These main charges refer to the main charges as recorded when this research was conducted; they may not be the same charges as originally reported by the police, and they may subsequently change during court proceedings.
§ The charge 'Act in a Racially Aggravated Manner' comes under the Criminal Law (Consolidation) (Scotland) Act 1995 and is intrinsically racial, however a religious aggravation may be added where appropriate.
Table 10 shows a breakdown of the main charges by religion. There was a broadly similar proportional spread in the charges for breach of the peace and threatening or abusive behaviour given for offences against Roman Catholicism and Protestantism. The proportion of these charge types where Roman Catholicism and Protestantism were targeted is generally similar to previous years' charges.
Table 10: Breakdown of main charges in 2016-17*
|Main charge||No. charges||%||No. charges||%||No. charges||%||No. charges||%|
|Breach of the peace||15||4||8||5||6||5||1||4|
|Threatening or abusive behaviour||317||83||136||82||56||50||11||48|
|Offensive behaviour at football||10||3||2||1||0||0||0||0|
|Act in a racially aggravated manner||5||1||2||1||14||12||2||9|
* The charge 'Act in a Racially aggravated Manner' comes under the Criminal Law (Consolidation) (Scotland) Act 1995 and is intrinsically racial; however, a religious aggravation may be added where appropriate.
Compared with 2015-16, where Islam was targeted there was a similar, though lower, proportion of charges that were threatening or abusive behaviour and a very slightly higher proportion of racially aggravated charges. The number of these charge types where Islam was targeted is lower for threatening or abusive behaviour (by 20 charges) and higher for racially aggravated charges (by 2 charges). The proportion of charges targeting Islam that were assaults has increased since 2015-16, and this follows an increasing, though fluctuating, trend since 2014-15: 17% of charges in 2014-15, 16% of charges in 2015-16, and 19% of charges in 2016-17.
Court proceedings were commenced for 84% of charges with a religious aggravation in 2016-17 (568 out of 673 total charges)  . For details of charges that were concluded outside of court please see COPFS 'Hate Crime in Scotland in 2016-17'  , which provides more details on the action taken for these charges.
Both the 'Hate Crime in Scotland 2016-17' report and this report are based on the same data source i.e. the COPFS case management database and provides information on convictions for concluded charges. The convictions information is provisional and subject to change as some charges are yet to be dealt with in the system. Latest figures, from the data extracted on 3 rd May 2017, show that court proceedings had been concluded for 368 of these main charges. Of these concluded charges, 307 resulted in a conviction.
Final statistics on convictions for 2016-17 will be presented in the next Scottish Government 'Criminal Proceedings in Scotland' publication.  There are differences in the way the Criminal Proceedings statistics measure activity in the courts to the figures in this report. This is because Criminal Proceedings statistics only measure the main charge within a single court case. As there can be more than one charge associated with a case the charge level information in this publication is higher. There will also be timing differences since the figures in this report are based on the year of the report to the COPFS, while the Criminal Proceedings figures are based on year of disposal from the courts.
As shown in Table 11, the most common disposal recorded was a community penalty  for 102 charges (33%)- this is an increase from 2015-16 when there were 79 charges. However this makes up a similar proportion of disposals for charges. A monetary penalty was given for 93 charges (30%), which was a similar number to 2015-16. Custody was the disposal for 83 charges (27%)- this is an increase from 58 charges in 2015-16. Other  disposals were recorded for the remaining 29 charges (9%). As outlined, the nature of the disposal relates to the main charge, as well as to the religious aggravation. As Table 9 demonstrates, main charges vary considerably and relate to a broad range of underlying offences.
Table 11: Recorded disposals for convictions for main charge*
|Disposal||No. charges||%||No. charges||%||No. charges||%||No. charges||%||No. charges||%|
* Previous years' data is based on information previously published and has not been updated.
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