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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Recording of crimes and offences

Contraventions of Scottish criminal law are generally divided for statistical purposes into crimes or 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.

The detailed classification of crimes used by the Scottish Government to collect criminal statistics contains around 500 crime codes. These are grouped in the bulletin as shown in the table below:



Crimes of violence and sexual crimes

Murder, attempted murder, serious assault, culpable homicide, robbery, threats and extortion.

Rape & attempted rape, sexual assault, crimes associated with prostitution, other sexual crimes.

Crimes of dishonesty

Housebreaking, theft of motor vehicle, shoplifting, fraud, other crimes of dishonesty.

Vandalism, fire-raising etc.

Fire-raising, vandalism, other malicious and reckless conduct.

Other crimes

Crimes against public justice, handling offensive weapons, drugs crimes, crimes against public justice.



All offences

Common assault, breach of the peace, threatening or abusive behaviour, stalking, offensive behaviour at football, threatening communications, racially aggravated harassment, racially aggravated conduct, antisocial behaviour offences, Communications Act 2003 offences, motor vehicle offences.

Crime definitions

Assault - In Scotland, assault is a common law offence. In order to distinguish between serious and common assaults, Police Scotland use a common definition for serious assault as outlined in the Scottish Crime Recording Standard[21]:

'An assault or attack in which the victim/reporter sustains injury resulting in detention in hospital as an inpatient, for the treatment of that injury, or any of the following injuries whether or not detained in hospital:

  • Fractures (the breaking or cracking of a bone. Note - nose is cartilage not bone, so a 'broken nose' should not be classified unless it meets one of the other criteria)
  • Internal injuries
  • Severe concussion
  • Lacerations requiring sutures which may lead to impairment or disfigurement
  • Any other injury which may lead to impairment or disfigurement.'

Threatening or abusive behaviour - Section 38, Criminal Justice and Licensing (Scotland) Act 2010 - a person commits an offence if,

a) they behave in a threatening or abusive manner,

b) the behaviour would be likely to cause a reasonable person to suffer fear or alarm, and

c) intends by the behaviour to cause fear or alarm or is reckless as to whether the behaviour would cause fear or alarm.

This applies to,

a) behaviour of any kind including, in particular, things said or otherwise communicated as well as things done, and

b) behaviour consisting of –

i. a single act, or

ii. a course of conduct

Standalone racially aggravated offences - the offender asserts towards the person affected, malice and ill-will based on that person's membership (or presumed membership) of a racial group; or the course of conduct or action is motivated (wholly or partly) by malice and ill-will towards members of a racial group based on their membership of that group:

  • Racially aggravated harassment - a racially aggravated course of conduct, amounting to harassment.
  • Racially aggravated conduct - to act in a manner, including speech, which is racially aggravated and which causes, or is intended to cause, a person alarm or distress.

Communications Act 2003 offences - Section 127(1) (Non-Sexual) - a person is guilty of an offence if they:

a) send by means of a public electronic communications network a message or other matter that is grossly offensive or of an indecent, obscene or menacing character, or

b) causes any such message or matter to be sent.

How to access background or source data

The data collected for this social research publication:

☒ may be made available on request, subject to consideration of legal and ethical factors. Please contact for further information.



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