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 document is part of a collection

Annex: 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.

This study presents crime statistics using the new set of crime and offence groups approved by the Scottish Crime Recording Board, following a public consultation of users. Responses to this consultation were published in March 2022 alongside a report outlining a package of changes to the production of Scotland’s recorded crime statistics. The changes include the introduction of a new set of crime and offence groups and categories. The largest change is the transfer of Common assault and Stalking from the Miscellaneous offences group to the Non-sexual crimes of violence group, and by extension the recorded crime total for Scotland. To maintain time series analysis, all data was back-revised.


Non-sexual crimes of violence and sexual crimes


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

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.


Damage and reckless behaviour


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


Crimes against society


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


All offences


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

These are grouped in the bulletin as shown in the table below:

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:

‘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.


Email: justice_analysts@gov.scot

Back to top