Scotland politics

Race crime in Scotland falls to lowest level in 10 years

Police anti-sectarian initiative
Image caption A new law was introduced in March 2012 to tackle sectarian offences

The number of race crimes reported in Scotland has fallen to its lowest level for 10 years.

New figures published by the Crown Office also showed a 24% drop in the number of charges which involved a religious aggravation.

However, there were increases in the number of hate crimes involving sexual orientation and disability in 2012-13.

And within the religion-related statistics there was a rise in anti-Islamic charges.

The Hate Crime in Scotland publication brings together figures on race crime and on crime motivated by prejudice related to religion, disability, sexual orientation and transgender identity.

The first annual statistics for new anti-sectarian laws have also been published and showed more than 300 charges have been brought since the legislation came into force in March last year.

Racial crime was the most commonly reported hate crime in 2012-13, with more than twice the number of charges than the other four categories combined.

However, there was a 12% drop in race-related charges compared with the previous year.

The total of 4,012 crimes reported in 2012-13 was the lowest figure since 2003-04.

For the first time, sexual orientation aggravated crime was the second most common type of hate crime - with 729 charges reported last year.

There were 138 charges reported relating to disability, more than double the number reported in 2011-12.

A total of 687 charges with a religious aggravation were reported. Last year this figure was higher but the Crown Office said this could be due to increased awareness and reporting and recording of these crimes.

Catholicism and Protestantism were most often the religions that were the subject of abuse but there was a 24% drop in the number of charges referring to Catholicism and 44% drop in those related to Protestantism.

There was a rise where the charges related to conduct insulting to Islam, with a total of 80 charges compared with just 19 in 2011-12.

However, 57 of these were from one event - a march in Glasgow involving the Scottish Defence League.

Police officers were the most common target of religiously aggravated abuse.

The religious hate figures also differed for 2012-13 because some charges that would previously have been recorded in this category are now covered by the Offensive Behaviour at Football and Threatening Communications Act, which came into force in March 2012.

Research by the Scottish government suggests that there were 75 additional charges under this legislation which related to religiously aggravated behaviour, so including these there were a total of 762 charges relating to religion.

Most of those involved in religious hate crimes were men, with 40% in Glasgow and almost half of the accused described by police as being under the influence of alcohol.


Community Safety Minister Roseanna Cunningham said: "Any form of attack or discrimination based on the assumption of someone's religion, race or cultural background is completely unacceptable.

"While the decrease in both racist and religiously aggravated offending are to be welcomed, it is concerning to note the rise in charges directed towards the Islamic community and towards those with disabilities.

"Scotland is a country which does not tolerate racial or religious prejudice and we are a nation where people of all faiths and none can live in peace."

She added: "We will work tirelessly to stamp out all forms of prejudice, and have committed nearly £21m during 2012-15 for projects which tackle a broad range of discrimination."

Earlier this week the Scottish government announced £3m of funding for community groups to help to tackle sectarianism.

The minister said the government would also continue to work with the Muslim community to provide reassurance and fight against extremism on all sides.

Lord Advocate Frank Mulholland QC added: "Scotland's prosecutors have a zero-tolerance approach towards prejudice and hatred which finds expression in criminal behaviour.

"We see the upset it brings to individuals and the corrosive effect it has on communities and such behaviour is completely unacceptable in modern Scotland."

Anti-sectarianism charity Nil By Mouth welcomed the fall in religiously aggravated offences but repeated its call for a nationwide rehabilitation scheme for people convicted of bigoted behaviour.

Director Dave Scott said: "Over the last decade there have been over 7,000 people charged with religious hate crimes and with under 30s accounting for 50% of the total number of offences this has to be the generation on which we focus our efforts.

"Of those convicted, 40% received a financial penalty rather than custodial sentences so to ensure they are made to properly reflect on their actions and attitudes we want a mandatory rehabilitation programme put in place for anyone convicted of sectarian offences."

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