Characteristics of police recorded hate crime in Scotland: study

This report presents the findings of a study into the nature of police recorded hate aggravated crimes in Scotland. This includes new details on the characteristics of these cases, based on a random sample of police recorded crimes.

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Hate crimes recorded by the police


There are a range of factors that could influence the number of hate crimes recorded by the police. Whilst changes in the number of crimes recorded could reflect a change in the number of crimes experienced by the population of Scotland, other factors are also likely to have an impact.

Trends can be affected by public reporting practices; attitudes to certain behaviour may change over time and reporting rates may vary by the type of crime.

Under-reporting of hate crime is also recognised as a key factor, and it could be that different groups in society may be more or less likely to report to the police that they have been the victim of a hate crime. For a broad example of this, the Scottish Crime and Justice Survey (SCJS) estimated that 36% of all crimes (as defined by the SCJS) were reported to the police in 2018-19[2].

Given the above, and as with all crime committed in Scotland, the analysis provided in this report on the characteristics of hate crime can only inform users about cases that were reported to the police. These may not necessarily be the same as for those hate crimes that didn't get reported by a victim or anyone else, and therefore the characteristics of all hate crime in Scotland could be different.

Recording procedures

Contraventions of Scottish criminal law are generally divided for statistical purposes into crimes or offences. For the purposes of this report the term 'hate crime' includes both crimes and offences.

'Crime' is generally used for the more serious criminal acts; the less serious termed 'offences', although the term 'offence' may also be used in relation to serious breaches of criminal law. The distinction is made only for working purposes and the 'seriousness' of the offence is generally related to the maximum sentence that can be imposed. More information can be found in the Annex, along with definitions of the most frequently committed hate crimes.

The information provided below on the volume of hate crime recorded by the police during 2014-15 to 2019-20 is drawn from the Interim Vulnerable Persons Database (IVPD). Whilst the IVPD itself is not Police Scotland's crime recording system, should criminality be identified as part of a hate-related incident then the appropriate crimes will also be recorded in the IVPD.

Further information on the recording of crime can be found in the guidance provided to officers in the Scottish Crime Recording Standard: Crime Recording and Counting Rules[3].

As noted in the introduction, for the purpose of this report, a hate crime is any crime which is perceived by the victim or any other person, to be motivated (wholly or partly) by malice and ill-will towards a social group.

Not all crimes will necessarily have a victim. One example may be where racist graffiti not directed at any individual (i.e. a hate crime of vandalism with a race aggravator) is discovered and reported. A hate concern would be raised on the IVPD with the witness (i.e. the person reporting) being identified as the subject of concern.

Number of hate crimes

The police recorded 6,448 hate crimes in the IVPD in 2019-20. Since 2014-15, the number of hate crimes recorded in the IVPD has fluctuated between 6,300 and 7,000 crimes (Table 4).

Geographic location of hate crimes

In 2019-20, the number of hate crimes recorded by Police Scotland per 10,000 of the population was highest in Glasgow City and the City of Edinburgh local authority areas (25 and 23 crimes per 10,000 population respectively) (Table 5). The Shetland Islands and Orkney Islands had the lowest rates.

Whilst the Glasgow City and City of Edinburgh local authority areas collectively accounted for 21% of Scotland's population in 2019[4], they accounted for over two-fifths (43%) of all hate crimes recorded by Police Scotland in 2019-20. This could, at least in part, relate to the relatively higher level of ethnic diversity present within these two areas (the majority of associated hate crimes included a race aggravation - see Table 6). The 2011 Scottish Census[5] reported that Glasgow City and the City of Edinburgh local authority areas have a relatively higher proportion of their population comprised of non-white ethnic groups, 12% and 8% respectively, compared to the Scottish average of 4%. Other factors that may lead to the relatively higher number of recorded crimes within these two local authorities include the presence of a large night-time economy, and a large daily influx of visitors, workers and tourists. They are also more frequently used as the location for large scale events and the holding of demonstrations.

Hate crimes by aggravator

In 2019-20, around three-fifths (62%) of hate crimes included a race aggravator, one in five (20%) included a sexual orientation aggravator, 8% a religion aggravator, 4% a disability aggravator and 1% a transgender identity aggravator (Table 6). The remaining 5% of crimes and offences included more than one aggravator.

Since 2014-15, there has been a fall in the number of race aggravated hate crimes (down 20% from 4,967 crimes in 2014-15 to 3,969 crimes in 2019-20). Over the same period, sexual orientation aggravated hate crimes have increased (up 30%) and the number of transgender identity aggravated hate crimes has doubled (from 48 to 96).

Hate crimes by crime type

In 2019-20, just over half (51%) of hate crimes recorded were 'Threatening or abusive behaviour' under Section 38 of the Criminal Justice and Licensing (Scotland) Act 2010 (Table 7) (see the Annex for definitions of selected crimes). This was followed by 'Racially aggravated conduct' which represented 16% of hate crimes recorded. 'Racially aggravated conduct' covers some offences under Section 50A of the Criminal Law (Consolidation) (Scotland) Act 1995 where the perpetrator acts in a racially aggravated manner and this causes, or is intended to cause, a person alarm or distress. 'Racially aggravated conduct' is recorded where the behaviour is corroborated by one or more witnesses, otherwise an offence such as 'Threatening or abusive behaviour' with a racist aggravator would be recorded. A further 12% of hate crimes recorded in the IVPD in 2019-20 were 'Common assault' (see the Annex for more information on the definition of 'Common assault').

The total number of 'Threatening or abusive behaviour' offences recorded in the IVPD has increased from 2,432 in 2014-15 to 3,301 in 2019-20. Over the same period, the number of 'Racially aggravated conduct' offences recorded in the IVPD has fallen from 2,196 to 1,054.

Type of hate crime by hate aggravator

For the purposes of this analysis we have included any crime which includes the aggravator in question, including occasions where there may have been multiple aggravators. Therefore, crimes with multiple aggravators will be included in the figures for each of the aggravators associated with it. For example, if a crime was aggravated by race and sexual orientation, it will be included in the total number of race crimes and in the total number of sexual orientation crimes. This means the total number of crimes for each aggravator in Table 6 below will not match the totals in Table 4 and Table 5.

With the exception of race, in 2019-20 the most common hate crime recorded across each of the different aggravators was 'Threatening or abusive behaviour' (Table 7).

As might be expected, a far higher proportion of crimes recorded with a race aggravator were 'Racially aggravated conduct'. This is because it is a standalone offence relating to racially aggravated behaviour, whereas there are no standalone offences relating to the other strands. There was a correspondingly lower proportion of 'Threatening or abusive behaviour' offences recorded in the IVPD for crimes with a racial aggravator. Again, this would be expected as the offence of 'Racially aggravated conduct' is similar to the offence of 'Threatening or abusive behaviour'[6].

There were a slightly higher proportion of 'Vandalism etc.' crimes recorded in the IVPD for hate crimes with a religious aggravator than for the other strands. There are some other small differences in the proportions across other categories, however due to the smaller number of crimes recorded with a disability and transgender identity aggravator, the proportions are more likely to fluctuate year to year. Further definitions can be found in the Annex.



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