Figures released today show an overall increase in incidents of hate crime reported to Scotland’s prosecution service in 2015-16, compared to the previous year.
Separately, there was a 49% rise in charges under the Offensive Behaviour at Football and Threatening Communications Act 2012, though the figure is more comparable to the first full year of the legislation.
Racial crime, the most commonly reported hate crime, saw a 3% fall to 3,712 charges reported in 2015-16, the lowest number reported since 2003-04, but religion-related offences rose 3% to 581, disability hate by 14% to 201 offences and reports of sexual orientation hatred were up 20% to 1,020.
There were 287 football-related charges reported to COPFS under s 1 of the 2012 Act in 2015-16, relating to 117 fixtures across 29 stadiums, up from 54 games played at 21 stadiums the year before. Three matches which accounted for 18% of the charges featured neither Rangers not Celtic.
Roman Catholicism was the religion most often noted in religiously-aggravated charges (51% in 2015-16), followed by Protestantism (24%) and Islam (23%), though the number of charges where Islam was noted almost doubled, from 71 charges to 134. However the most common victims were the police, in 41% of charges, the same as in 2014-15 – often where they arrested the accused for a separate charge (which may not have involved religious prejudice) and were then abused in religiously offensive terms afterwards. The general community (e.g. people who happened to be in the vicinity) were the victim in 19%, down from 36%; individual members of the public in 26% (down from 30%) and workers in 16% (from 15%).
Cabinet Secretary for Justice Michael Matheson commented: “While I am concerned at an increase in the number of charges on last year, including the rise in alleged offences against Islam, it does indicate an improvement in the willingness of the public to report these crimes, and that should be welcomed.
“I want every victim of such crimes to be willing to come forward and work with the police to ensure the perpetrators can be pursued and punished appropriately.”
He added: “An increase in the number of charges under the Offensive Behaviour Act shows that the legislation continues to be an important tool in tackling all forms of offensive behaviour, including sectarianism, and sends a clear message that such behaviour has no place in a modern, open and inclusive society. I have asked Scottish football to take further steps to address this long-standing issue and I expect to see progress on this imminently."