Publication - Research and analysis

Religiously aggravated offending in Scotland 2017-2018: analysis of charges

Published: 15 Jun 2018
Directorate:
Safer Communities Directorate
Part of:
Law and order
ISBN:
9781788519786

Analysis of charges reported to the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service of Scotland (COPFS) under Section 74 of the Criminal Justice (Scotland) Act 2003.

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25 page PDF

677.5 kB

Contents
Religiously aggravated offending in Scotland 2017-2018: analysis of charges
3. Findings

25 page PDF

677.5 kB

3. Findings

Number of charges

There were 642 charges with a religious aggravation reported in 2017-18. This is a decrease of 5% from the 678 charges reported in 2016-17 but is higher than the figures for the three years prior to 2016-17. As demonstrated in Table 1, the number of charges reported each year fluctuates, and has done so over the eleven year period analysed. However, as noted below, any direct comparisons between 2017-18 and previous years should be treated with caution due to the impact of the repeal of the Offensive Behaviour at Football and Threatening Communications Act.

Table 1: Charges reported to the COPFS: 2007-08 – 2017-18 [5]

  2007-08 2008-09 2009-10 2010-11 2011-12 2012-13 2013-14 2014-15 2015-16 2016-17 2017-18
No. charges 609 668 633 694 896 689 591 567 591 678 642

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, 2015-16, and 2016-17 by the Scottish Government at the time that research was carried out.

The number of religiously aggravated charges this year will have been influenced by the repeal of the Offensive Behaviour at Football and Threatening Communications (Scotland) Act 2012. This legislation came into force on 1 March 2012, and was repealed on 20 April 2018. Among other things, this legislation criminalised religious hatred that is connected to football. While in use, it may have been used instead of section 74 in certain circumstances.

Following Parliament's decision that the OBFTC Act would be repealed, revised Lord Advocate's Guidelines dated 9 March 2018 outlined that criminal offences in connection with football, which may previously have been reported using section 1 or section 6 of the 2012 Act, should be reported using alternative common law or statutory offences. Therefore, after this date, new charges which previously would have been reported under the OBFTC Act, may instead have been reported under a different offence with a religious aggravation.

In addition, COPFS conducted a review of all on-going charges under the OBFTC Act and a number which were on-going at that time will have been amended to a different offence with a religious aggravation.

Before providing further details of these religiously aggravated charges, it is worth highlighting that these charges do not relate to 642 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 2017-18, the vast majority of the charges (89%) related to male accused, similar to previous years.

Table 2 shows the age breakdown of the accused for each of the 642 religious aggravation charges. Thirty-eight per cent of charges noted an accused aged 30 and under. This is a small decrease compared with 2016-17 and 2015-16 (each 41%) and is the lowest percentage since analysis was first undertaken in 2012-13.

Table 2: Age breakdown of the accused for each charge*

2012-13 2013-14 2014-15 2015-16 2016-17 2017-18
Age group No. charges % No. charges % No. charges % No. charges % No. charges % No. charges %
<20 117 17 83 14 78 14 84 14 96 14 68 11
21-30 229 33 191 33 182 32 155 27 177 26 179 28
31-40 173 25 133 23 127 22 142 24 144 21 145 23
41-50 116 17 114 19 110 19 103 18 128 19 142 22
51-60 37 5 57 10 56 10 70 12 101 15 85 13
>60 15 2 9 2 15 3 27 5 25 4 23 4
Unknown 0 0 0 0 1 0.2 0 0 2 0.3 0 0
Total 687 100 587 100 569 100 581 100 673 100 642 100

* Percentages may not add up to 100 because of rounding. Percentages of fewer than 1% have been rounded to the nearest decimal place.

Alcohol and drug-related charges

Table 3 shows that the accused was described by the police as being under the influence of alcohol in 350 charges (55% of the total) in 2017-18, compared to 351 charges (52%) in 2016-17. The 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 2017-18 these accounted for 67 charges (10%), consistent with 2016-17 but higher than earlier years.

Table 3: Alcohol and drug-related charges*

  2012-13 2013-14 2014-15 2015-16 2016-17 2017-18
No. charges % No. charges % No. charges % No. charges % No. charges % No. charges %
Alcohol 333 48 345 59 282 50 266 46 351 52 350 55
Drugs 60 9 28 5 41 7 33 6 66 10 67 10

* Some charges may have included the influence of both alcohol and drugs, therefore charges do not always add up to the total number reported.

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 173 (27% of total charges) and the highest charges per head of population with 28 per 100,000 population [6] . However, this is the lowest recorded figures for Glasgow for the time series.

Using the measure of charges per 100,000 population, Glasgow was followed by Falkirk (21 per 100,000 population), North Lanarkshire (19 per 100,000 population) and West Lothian (18 per 100,000 population).

Table 4: Local authority area where charges occurred*

2014-15 2015-16 2016-17 2017-18
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 pop.
Aberdeen City 11 2 5 9 2 4 8 1 4 8 1 3
Aberdeenshire - - - 0 0 0 0 0 0 5 0.8 2
Angus - - - 7 1 6 7 1 6 - - -
Argyll & Bute 10 2 11 - - - 9 1 10 8 1 9
Clackmannanshire 0 0 0 11 2 21 - - - - - -
Dumfries & Galloway 8 1 5 13 2 2 19 3 13 15 2 10
Dundee City - - - 18 3 12 9 1 6 7 1 5
E. Ayrshire 6 1 5 11 2 9 11 2 9 12 2 10
E. Dunbartonshire - - - - - - 5 1 5 - - -
E. Lothian - - - - - - - - - - - -
E. Renfrewshire 6 1 6 - - - 10 1 11 8 1 8
Edinburgh City 53 9 10 55 9 11 78 12 15 67 10 13
Eilean Siar (Western Isles) - - - - - - - - - 0 0 0
Falkirk 30 5 19 29 5 18 26 4 16 33 5 21
Fife 9 2 2 20 3 5 20 3 5 35 5 9
Glasgow City 197 35 32 176 30 29 203 30 33 173 27 28
Highland 11 2 5 5 1 2 11 2 5 10 2 4
Inverclyde 5 0.9 6 14 2 18 7 1 9 10 2 13
Midlothian 9 2 10 - - - 12 2 13 5 0.8 6
Moray - - - 0 0 0 - - - - - -
N. Ayrshire 13 2 10 18 3 13 26 4 19 21 3 15
N. Lanarkshire 41 7 12 52 9 15 70 10 21 65 10 19
Orkney Islands - - - 0 0 0 - - - 0 0 0
Perth & Kinross - - - - - - 8 1 5 8 1 5
Renfrewshire 28 5 16 29 5 17 16 2 9 20 3 11
Scottish Borders 5 0.9 4 7 1 6 0 0 0 6 0.9 5
Shetland Islands - - - - - - 0 0 0 0 0 0
S. Ayrshire 9 4 8 9 2 8 7 1 6 12 2 11
S. Lanarkshire 24 2 8 28 5 9 41 6 13 50 8 16
Stirling 18 3 20 19 3 21 8 1 8 8 1 9
W. Dunbartonshire 14 2 16 8 1 9 23 3 26 13 2 15
W. Lothian 37 7 20 27 5 15 32 5 18 32 5 18
Outside Scotland 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
Total 568 100 11 581 100 11 673 100 9 642 100 12

* Percentages may not add up to 100 because of rounding . Breakdowns with fewer than 5 charges are suppressed and denoted by '-'. Percentages of fewer than 1% have been rounded to the nearest decimal place.

Locus of the charges

As Table 5 shows, the most common location where charges occurred is in a police car / station – 149 charges which is 23% of all charges. This is fewer than the 161 charges recorded in 2016-17 but is the third highest recorded across the time series. The proportion of charges that occurred in a police car/station (23%) was in line with 2016-17 (24%).

The next most common location where charges occurred is 'domestic dwelling', with 111 charges (17%). Both the number and proportion of charges occurring in a 'domestic dwelling' increased compared to 2016-17 when there were 84 charges (12%). Whilst the number of charges for 2017-18 (111) is the highest across the time series, the proportion (17%) is the same as in 2013-14.

In 2017-18, 85 charges (13%) occurred on 'main street' [7] , the lowest number and proportion for the time series. A similar number (82 charges, 13%) took place in 'other/unspecified' locations. Such locations include shops, hotels, takeaways and any other location not provided in the list, as well as those where the location is not specified. This marks an increase on 2016-17 but both the number and proportion are similar with figures for 2014-15.

The number and proportion of charges occurring in a residential area decreased from 86 charges (13%) in 2016-17 to 40 charges (6%) in 2017-18. This is lowest number and proportion of charges since analysis started in 2012-13.

Table 5: Locus of charges * ǂ

2012-13 2013-14 2014-15 2015-16 2016-17 2017-18
Locus No. charges % No. charges % No. charges % No. charges % No. charges % No. charges %
Police car/station 159 23 113 19 109 19 107 18 161 24 149 23
Main Street 153 22 177 30 117 21 138 24 127 19 85 13
Residential area 126 18 85 14 58 10 68 12 86 13 40 6
Domestic dwelling 70 10 99 17 83 15 69 12 84 12 111 17
Football stadium 27 4 16 3 8 1 15 3 10 1 15 2
Public transport 27 4 16 3 35 6 41 7 47 7 58 9
Pub/club 32 5 24 4 20 4 25 4 35 5 30 5
Hospital/ambulance 15 2 15 3 21 4 15 3 25 4 33 5
Social media 30 4 17 3 36 6 23 4 29 4 27 4
Place of worship 6 1 7 1 - - 9 2 7 1 12 2
Other / unspecified 64 9 18 3 79 14 71 12 62 9 82 13

* Charges may not always add up to the total number reported because an incident may fall into more than one locus type. Breakdowns with fewer than 5 charges are suppressed and denoted by '-'. ǂ Percentages may not always add to 100% due to rounding.

Timing of the charges

Chart 1 outlines the peak days of the week and times of the day that incidents took place. As with 2016-17 and previous years, there were typically spikes in religiously aggravated offending on weekday evenings and to a greater extent at weekends, particularly on Saturday nights, and the early hours of Sunday mornings.

Chart 1: Time and day of incidents*

Chart 1: Time and day of incidents*

*'unknown' relates to charges where the time of day could not be deciphered from police reports.

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 [8] . 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

  2012-13 2013-14 2014-15 2015-16 2016-17 2017-18
No. charges % No. charges % No. charges % No. charges % No. charges % No. charges %
Football 109 16 96 16 64 11 50 9 72 11 116 18
Marches/ parades 85 12 34 6 31 5 15 3 21 3 16 2

As shown in Table 6, compared to 2016-17 the number and proportion of charges that are football-related ( e.g. if the police noted the relevance of a football association within the description of the charge) increased by 44 charges to 116 charges, an increase of 61%. This is the highest number for the time series and it is likely related to the repeal of the OBFTC Act.

Within the football-related charges under section 74, 15 occurred at a football stadium. The other football-related charges took place in settings such as main streets, public transport, domestic dwellings, residential areas, social media, police car/station, and pub/club.

Table 6 also shows that the number and proportion of charges related to marches and parades decreased slightly between 2016-17 and 2017-18.

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 319 charges for 2017-18. This is a decrease of 17% from 384 charges in 2016-17. The proportion of charges where Roman Catholicism was the subject of abuse has also decreased since 2016-17, from 57% to 50% in 2017-18.

Protestantism is the religion that had the second highest number of aggravations in 2017-18 with 174 charges, amounting to 27% of all charges. This marks a slight increase on the 2016-17 figure, where there were 165 charges (25%).

In 2017-18 there were 115 charges (18%) related to Islam. This is similar to 2016-17 (113 charges, 17%) and is below the peak year for the time series of 2015-16, although the figures are higher than those recorded in earlier years.

Charges for conduct derogatory towards Judaism was also consistent between 2016-17 and 2017-18: 23 and 21 charges respectively. The proportion of all charges has remained the same at 3% and has ranged from 2%-4% across the years.

Table 7: Religious affiliation that was the subject of offensive conduct*

  2012-13 2013-14 2014-15 2015-16 2016-17 2017-18
Religion targeted No. charges % No. charges % No. charges % No. charges % No. charges % No. charges %
Roman Catholicism 388 56 367 63 328 58 299 51 384 57 319 50
Protestantism 199 29 169 29 145 25 141 24 165 25 174 27
Islam 80 12 48 8 71 12 134 23 113 17 115 18
Judaism 27 4 9 2 25 4 18 3 23 3 21 3
Christianity (general) 5 0.7 - - 6 1 0 0 5 0.7 12 2
Unknown - - 5 0.9 9 2 0 0 6 0.9 16 2
Other - - - - - - 0 0 0 0 5 0.8

* Charges do not add up to the total number reported as some charges related to conduct that targeted more than one religious group . Breakdowns with fewer than 5 charges are suppressed and denoted by '-'. Percentages of fewer than 1% have been rounded to the nearest decimal place.

Details of the victims

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 is shown in Table 8, police officers were the most common target for religiously aggravated abuse. In 2017-18 there were 277 charges (43% of total) where the police was the victim. This is a similar proportion to 2016-17, when this was 44%, but there were fewer charges in 2017-18 where police were the victim (293 charges in 2016-17). 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.

Members of the public were the victims in 194 charges (30% of total) in 2017-18. This is an increase from 2016-17, when members of the public were victims in 176 charges, amounting to 26% of the total. The number of charges for 2017-18 is the highest for the time series, although the proportion is the same as 2014-15.

The general community ( e.g. people who happened to be in the vicinity, but were not directly targeted) were the victim in 127 charges (20%). This is a decrease from the 194 charges (29%) reported in 2016-17 and likely reflects the decline in the number of charges between 2016-17 and 2017-18 in which multiple victims were noted in the police reports and therefore coded by the researchers.

There was a small decrease in the number of charges where workers were the victim, from 107 in 2016-17 to 100 in 2017-18, but the proportion remained at 16%. The 'workers' category includes hospital staff, security staff, shop workers, taxi drivers, takeaway servers etc., in addition to religious officials.

Table 8: Victims of religious aggravation*

  2012-13 2013-14 2014-15 2015-16 2016-17 2017-18
Victim No. charges % No. charges % No. charges % No. charges % No. charges % No. charges %
Police 273 40 282 48 233 41 236 41 293 44 277 43
Community 231 34 155 26 205 36 111 19 194 29 127 20
Member of the public 172 25 161 27 169 30 148 25 176 26 194 30
Worker(s) 80 12 65 11 85 15 99 17 107 16 100 16
Unknown 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 4 0.6

* 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. Percentages of fewer than 1% have been rounded to the nearest decimal place.

Main charges

Table 9 shows a breakdown of the main charges to which aggravations were added. By far the most common charge cited was 'threatening or abusive behaviour' (502 charges, 78% of total) and this has been the most prevalent charge year-on-year.

Comparing the figures to 2016-17, the table (over the page) shows there is not one specific charge that is driving the decrease in the total number of charges between the two years. There were small decreases in 2017-18 across all of the main charges with the exception of 'act in a racially aggravated manner' which increased slightly, and the proportional spread for each charge are broadly similar to 2016-17. As demonstrated by the table the figures do fluctuate somewhat across the time series.

Table 9: Main charges that the religious aggravations were added to * ǂ §

2013-14 2014-15 2015-16 2016-17 2017-18
Main charge No. charges % No. charges % No. charges % No. charges % No. charges %
Breach of the peace 68 12 54 10 24 4 28 4 14 2
Threatening or abusive behaviour 416 71 372 65 427 73 508 75 502 78
Assault 34 6 36 6 50 9 47 7 35 5
Offensive behaviour at football 14 2 3 0.5 13 2 15 2 10 2
Offensive communications 2 0.3 38 7 24 4 24 4 22 3
Act in a racially aggravated manner 4 0.7 34 6 18 3 21 3 30 5
Other 49 8 32 6 25 4 30 4 29 5
Total 587 100 569 100 581 100 673 100 642 100

* Percentages may not add up to 100 due to rounding. Percentages of fewer than 1% have been rounded to the nearest decimal place.

¥ 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 the four religions that were most commonly the subject of the religiously aggravated offending. There was a broadly comparable proportional spread in the main charges for offences against Roman Catholicism and Protestantism, and this is largely similar to previous years.

Table 10: Breakdown of main charges in 2017-18*

Catholicism Protestantism Islam Judaism
Main charge No. charges % No. charges % No. charges % No. charges %
Breach of the peace 6 2 5 3 4 3 0 0
Threatening or abusive behaviour 268 84 145 83 71 62 13 62
Assault 15 5 8 5 8 7 0 0
Offensive behaviour at football 7 2 - - 0 0 0 0
Offensive communications 7 2 - - 10 9 - -
Act in a racially aggravated manner 5 2 - - 17 15 - -
Other 11 3 8 5 5 4 - -
Total 319 100 174 100 115 100 21 100

* 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. Breakdowns with fewer than 5 charges are suppressed and denoted by '-'.

Where Islam was targeted, the number of charges of threatening or abusive behaviour increased from 56 in 2016-17 to 71 in 2017-18, and there was a corresponding increase in the proportion of charges, up from 50% to 62%. The number and proportion of charges targeting Islam that were assaults decreased from 22 charges (19%) in 2016-17 to 8 charges (7%) in 2017-18. This follows an increase of three percentage points in the proportion of assault charges between 2015-16 and 2016-17.

For Judaism, the number of charges of threatening or abusive behaviour in 2017-18 was similar to 2016-17: 13 and 11 charges respectively.

Court proceedings

Court proceedings were commenced for 85% of charges with a religious aggravation in 2017-18 (545 out of 642 total charges) [9] . For details of charges that were concluded outside of court please see COPFS 'Hate Crime in Scotland in 2017-18' [10] , which provides more details on the action taken for these charges.

Both the 'Hate Crime in Scotland 2017-18' report and this report are based on the same data source- the COPFS case management database and provide 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 May 2018, show that court proceedings had been concluded for 370 of these main charges. Of these concluded charges, 303 (82%) resulted in a conviction.

Final statistics on convictions for 2017-18 will be presented in the next Scottish Government 'Criminal Proceedings in Scotland' publication [11] . 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, a monetary penalty was applied to 102 charges (34%) in 2017-18, a small increase on 2016-17. This was closely followed by community penalty (101 charges, 33%). With the exception of 2016-17, monetary penalty has been the most common disposal method across the time series.

In 2017-18 custody was the disposal for 61 charges (20%) - a decrease from 83 charges and 27% in 2016-17. Other [12] disposals were recorded for the remaining 39 charges (13%), an increase on previous years. As outlined, the nature of the disposal relates to the main charge as well as to the religious aggravation. As Table 9 demonstrates (pg. 21), main charges vary considerably and relate to a broad range of underlying offences.

Table 11: Recorded disposals for convictions for main charge*

2012-13 2013-14 2014-15 2015-16 2016-17 2017-18
Disposal No. charges % No. charges % No. charges % No. charges % No. charges % No. charges %
Monetary penalty 104 40 93 39 77 37 94 37 93 30 102 34
Community penalty 61 23 72 30 60 29 79 31 102 33 101 33
Custody 60 23 57 24 47 23 58 23 83 27 61 20
Other 37 14 16 7 22 11 20 8 29 9 39 13
Total 262 100 238 100 206 100 251 100 307 100 303 100

* Previous years' data is based on information previously published and has not been updated.


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