Scottish Government Equality Outcomes: Ethnicity Evidence Review

This evidence review was prepared to support the production of the Scottish Government's Equality Outcomes, with regard to ethnicity.

9 Hate Crime and Good Relations

9.1 Hate crime is generally understood to be a crime motivated by malice and ill-will towards a social group. Legislation on hate crime is relatively new: it was first classified as an offence on the grounds of race in the UK in the 1986 Public Order Act91. Section 74 of the Criminal Justice (Scotland) Act 2003 makes provision for offences aggravated by religious prejudice, and the Criminal Justice and Licensing (Scotland) Act 2010 strengthens the statutory aggravations for racially and religiously motivated crimes92.

9.2 This section addresses racially-motivated crime, domestic abuse, and attitudes to racial discrimination.

Racially-motivated crime

9.3 The EHRC Triennial Review93 reports that the number of crimes recorded by the police as part of racist incidents in Scotland has risen from 5,053 in 2004/05 to 6,002 in 2008/09. Figure 10 shows the number of racially motivated crimes referred to the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service for the same periods94, with levels rising to 2006/07 and then levelling off.

Figure 10: Police recorded racist crime and referrals to the Crown Office Procurator Fiscal Service for population in Scotland, 2004/05-2008/09

Figure 10: Police recorded racist crime and referrals to the Crown Office Procurator Fiscal Service for population in Scotland, 2004/05-2008/09

9.4 The police recorded 9.3 racist incidents per 10,000 population in Scotland in 2010-1195. For the past four years, the rate of racist incidents in per capita terms recorded by the police in Scotland has been comparable to that in England and Wales, and about twice that in Northern Ireland96. However, the ethnic composition of the UK population is far from uniform: according to the 2001 Census, 90.9% of the population of England and Wales was white, while this figure was 98.0% for Scotland, and 99.2% for Northern Ireland. This means that there were proportionately more racist incidents in Scotland than in England and Wales.

9.5 The Scottish Government gives more recent data97, covering the six year period 2006-07 to 2011-12. The figures quoted relate to the number of charges reported, rather than the number of individuals charged or the number of incidents that gave rise to such charges. In total, 4,518 charges relating to race crime were reported in 2011-12 (see Table 6), 8% more than in 2010-11. This is the highest number reported in the last six years. Court proceedings were commenced in respect of 81% of charges in 2011-12, lower than the figure for 2010-11 (84%) but similar to the level in earlier years.

Table 6: Race crime - Charges reported, 2006-07 to 2011-12 (percentages) (Source: Hate crime in Scotland, 2011-12)

Year 06-07 07-08 08-09 09-10 10-11 11-12
Total number of charges of race crimes 4361 4365 4334 4320 4178 4518
of which
Charges related to racially aggravated harassment and behaviour 64% 62% 64% 62% 62% 62%
Charges related to another offence with a racial aggravation 36% 38% 36% 38% 38% 38%

9.6 Netto et al's (2001) audit of research on ethnic minority issues in Scotland reported that racial harassment or abuse was a regular feature of the lives of many people from ethnic minority groups. This included experiencing damage to property and physical abuse. The audit suggests that ethnic minority people living in low-density residential areas or outside inner city areas may be at greater risk than those living in high-density areas: this is of particular relevance to the small numbers of ethnic minority people dispersed within rural areas of Scotland. This finding was confirmed by a 2005 study98 which found that the safest areas were those with a large ethnic minority population; in contrast, ethnic minorities who lived in rural areas (including in Scotland) were found to be much more vulnerable to racism. Verbal abuse was found to be the most common form of racist abuse, but incidents such as physical assaults, damage to property and acts of vandalism were also reported.

9.7 Focus groups with ethnic minority people in Scotland in 200399 further confirmed that racially motivated crime affects many people. This study suggested that shop owners were particularly vulnerable to fraud, theft, racial harassment and vandalism. Shop owners were also found to be dissatisfied with the reaction and procedures of the police to racist incidents, and felt that racist incidents were a low priority for the police.

9.8 A study on ethnic minority young people in Edinburgh and Glasgow in 2007100 observed that many participants accepted verbal racist harassment as part of everyday life - so much so that they would not normally consider reporting it to the police. The study found differences in attitudes between young people and their elders in relation to reporting racist incidents, with younger people more willing than their elders to name racism and to speak about their experiences.

Domestic abuse and ethnicity

9.9 The Scottish Borders Council101 observes that domestic violence can affect women from all ethnic groups, and it has no evidence to suggest that women of any particular ethnic minorities are any more at risk than others.

9.10 Although domestic violence occurs in families of all ethnicities, socioeconomic backgrounds, levels of education, age and in same-sex relationships, international evidence102 103 indicates that it is most commonly experienced within relationships or communities where there is support for strongly hierarchical or male-dominated relationships and where male authority over women and children is culturally expected and condoned.

9.11 The Cabinet Office (2011)104 cites findings from the British Crime Survey (2009/10) that, when behavioural factors are controlled for, "there is no statistically significant difference by ethnicity in the risk of being a victim of domestic abuse or sexual assault" (p7). However, it also note difficulties that are specific to a particular group: "Women and girls from a black, minority-ethnic (BME) background may find it more difficult to leave an abusive situation due to cultural beliefs or a lack of appropriate services" (p7).

9.12 Although the EHRC report finds no evidence to suggest that domestic violence is any more prevalent in Gypsy/Traveller communities than in any other ethnic group, it cites anecdotal evidence giving examples of cultural barriers to leaving a violent partner. The reported barriers include: loss of community, fear of racism, isolation, concerns about possible accommodation alternatives, beliefs that it is impossible to escape, expectations that marriage is for life, and the belief that many men are simply violent and women should accept this.

Attitudes to discrimination

9.13 Findings from the 2010 Scottish Social Attitudes Survey provide a detailed picture of public attitudes to discrimination and positive action105. As this is now the third time that the Survey has included questions on attitudes to discrimination (following previous studies in 2002 and 2006), this report also provides valuable insight into how public attitudes in this area are changing over time.

9.14 Table 7 shows responses to a question in the Scottish Social Attitudes Survey on attitudes towards immigration, cross-referenced against a question about tolerance of prejudice106. The respondents who were most concerned about the impact of immigration on Scotland's culture and identity appeared to be most likely to feel that prejudice is sometimes justifiable: among those who disagreed strongly that people from outside Britain who come to live in Scotland make the country a better place, a majority (63%) believed that sometimes there is good reason to be prejudiced. These differences are much larger than those based on social or economic differences between respondents.

Table 7: Attitudes to prejudice by comfort with diversity, beliefs about the impact of immigration on Scotland's identity (row %) (Source: Scottish Social Attitudes Survey, 2010)

People from outside Britain who come to live in Scotland make the country a better place Scotland should get rid of all prejudice Sometimes there is good reason to be prejudiced (It depends) Sample size
Agree strongly 89 9 - 54
Agree 80 15 3 397
Neither 65 29 5 629
Disagree 54 41 4 331
Disagree strongly 29 63 8 69

9.15 Table 8 shows whether respondents know any people from different ethnicities, cross-referenced against the question about tolerance of prejudice, to explore whether those who have contact with different kinds of people less accepting of prejudice in general. Those who know someone from a different racial or ethnic background were significantly less likely than those who did not, to say there was sometimes good reason for prejudice.

Table 8: Attitudes to prejudice by whether or not the respondent knows anyone from different groups (row %) (Source: Scottish Social Attitudes Survey, 2010)

Knows anyone with of a different racial or ethnic background? Scotland should get rid of all prejudice Sometimes there is good reason to be prejudiced (It depends) Sample size
Yes 69 26 4 984
No 58 37 3 291

9.16 Regarding refugees and asylum seekers, the Scottish Refugee Policy Forum held a policy conference in 2012107 that addressed many issues including racism and integration. It reports that racist abuse is perceived to be common on public transport - including by drivers - but that the victims are often hesitant to involve the police because of their experiences of the police in their home countries. The Scottish Refugee Policy Forum suggests that this may result in many hate crimes not being reported or investigated.


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