Police recorded hate crime - characteristics: updated study

Updated information on the number of hate crimes recorded by the police in Scotland during 2020-21 and 2021-22. It also includes new details on the characteristics of hate crime, based on a random sample of cases recorded by the police in 2020-21.


This report presents updated information on the number of hate crimes recorded by the police in Scotland during 2020-21 and 2021-22. It also includes new details on the characteristics of hate crime, based on a random sample of cases recorded by the police in 2020-21. The analysis of those characteristics includes information about the people involved (for example the ethnicity of victims and perpetrators), the types of prejudice shown by those committing hate crimes, and how these cases came to the attention of the police.

Users should view this publication as a follow up report to the ‘Characteristics of police recorded hate crime in Scotland: study’, published in February 2021.

The report is split into the following sections:

1. A summary of information on the volume of hate crime recorded by the police between 2014-15 and 2021-22;

  • In relation to disability, race, religion, sexual orientation and transgender identity.

2. A description of hate crime characteristics for cases recorded by the police in 2020-21 (i.e. findings from the research outlined above) and;

3. An outline of plans to ensure the future production of disaggregated data on recorded hate crime in Scotland.

Recording of hate crime by police

What is the definition of a police recorded hate crime?

This report draws on information recorded by Police Scotland and adopts the categorisations and definitions used by them when they do this. Further information on how Police Scotland record hate crimes is provided below.

For the purposes 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.

In Scotland, the law recognises hate crimes as crimes motivated by prejudice based on the characteristics listed below. Further information on the legislation used by the police to record hate crime is also available within Section One of the earlier ‘Developing Information on Hate Crime Recorded by the Police in Scotland’ report.

  • Disability,
  • Race,
  • Religion,
  • Sexual orientation,
  • Transgender identity.

A person does not need to be a member of the social group being targeted by the perpetrator to be the victim of a hate crime. The law states that the identity of the victim is irrelevant as to whether something is a hate crime or not; the motivation of the perpetrator is the key factor in defining a hate crime.

Furthermore, in some cases a hate crime may be committed against a person where the prejudice being shown by the perpetrator was towards a third party who was not present at the time of the crime (albeit in the vast majority of hate crimes, the victim and the target are the same person(s)). Again, as noted above this is because the motivation of the perpetrator is the key factor in defining a hate crime, and not the victim’s background. In these cases, they will still be recorded as a victim of a hate aggravated crime and will therefore appear in the analysis below of victim characteristics.

It should be noted that a single report of hate crime can result in more than one hate crime being recorded and can include other crimes which are not hate-related.

Furthermore, not all hate-related incidents which come to the attention of the police will necessarily constitute a criminal offence (though the vast majority do). Where an incident does not include the recording of a hate crime, a similar definition to that outlined above (i.e. the perception of the victim or any other person of a perpetrator’s malice and ill-will towards a social group) is relevant as to whether or not it is defined as hate-related by Police Scotland.

What happens when a hate crime is reported to the police?

When a member of the public contacts the police to report an incident (or if a police officer is witness to an incident) the information is logged on Police Scotland’s System for Tasking and Operational Resource Management (STORM) - this is Police Scotland’s national command and control system.

STORM is largely used for resource allocation purposes. Depending on the information supplied and the outcome of additional enquiries, the incident may result in the creation of one or more crime reports on the relevant crime management system (CMS). If a crime report includes a hate element then the relevant aggravator(s) (i.e. disability, race, religion, sexual orientation and/or transgender identity) will also be highlighted on the crime report.

If the incident is assessed to have a hate element, a record should also be added to Police Scotland’s Interim Vulnerable Persons Database (IVPD). The purpose of the IVPD is to ensure that any concerns for the victim, or any other person (subjects of concern), are assessed and the appropriate action taken. The IVPD is Police Scotland’s national database for recording all hate-related information, allowing them to enhance understanding of the extent of hate-related activity across the country. It enables identification of repeat victims and offenders and allows for a holistic assessment of wellbeing concerns and needs which influence multi-agency investigations, interventions and support.

It should be noted that these systems operate independently of each other, although reference numbers should be recorded on each system for cross referral.

How are hate crimes reported to the Crown Office?

For police recording purposes, the perception of the victim or any other person is relevant when considering whether an incident is hate-related or in recognising the malice element of the crime. The perception of the victim should always be explored, however they do not have to justify or provide evidence of their belief and police officers or staff members will not directly challenge this perception.

In terms of reporting hate crimes to the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service (COPFS), Lord Advocate guidelines state that the victim’s belief alone that an offence was aggravated by prejudice does not justify the charging of a statutory aggravation. If there is evidence to support that opinion, whether from one or more sources (including the victim), that should be reflected in the draft charge presented to the Procurator Fiscal, by including the relevant aggravation. This evidence will most frequently come from words spoken by the accused, but the important point is that there is evidence in addition to the victim’s belief.

A hate crime is reportable to COPFS when the charge in aggravated form is assessed as having sufficient evidence of malice and ill-will to be put before the court. In absence of words spoken, any report submitted should detail course of conduct by the accused that would evidence the crime was motivated by malice and ill-will.

Where can you find the data from this report?

All tables referred to throughout the bulletin are available in the Supporting documents Excel workbook. The workbook includes an ‘Introduction’ sheet, with information on how to navigate the tables, alongside a ‘Notes’ sheet, with relevant details to assist users when reading and interpreting results.


Email: justice_analysts@gov.scot

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