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No tolerance of hate crimes: statistics show fall in offences.
A decrease in overall racist and religiously aggravated offending in Scotland was recently given a cautious welcome by Community Safety Minister Roseanna Cunningham.
A series of reports on hate crime, religiously aggravated offending and the first annual statistics on the Offensive Behaviour Act were published recently.
Taken together, the reports show that there has been a 15 per cent reduction in offences involving religious hatred.
However, an increase in the number of charges where conduct was insulting towards Islam and disabled people was condemned by Ministers, who said there would be no tolerance of hate crime in Scotland. However, it was noted by Ministers that the majority of the anti-Islamic charges referred to a single demonstration by the SDL and indicates the strength of the zero tolerance approach to hate crime.
The figures were published as Alex Salmond held talks with representatives of the Muslim Council, where they discussed the latest findings and the First Minister reaffirmed the Scottish Government’s commitment to tackling racial and religious hatred and all forms of prejudice.
The Crown Office published Hate Crime in Scotland 2012-13 today, which shows that:
-Racial crime remains the most commonly reported hate crime, although the number of charges has fallen by 12 per cent.
-The number of charges with a religious aggravation has fallen 24 per cent on 2011-12. Taken along with the statistics on the Offensive Behaviour Act, this suggests a total decrease in criminality involving religious hatred of 15 per cent.
-The number of charges reported against disabled people was more than double the previous year at 138, and the number of charges related to sexual orientation was 12 per cent higher than the previous year. This is likely to reflect the introduction of the Offences (Aggravation by Prejudice) (Scotland) Act in March 2010, which specifically addresses prejudice relating to disability, sexual orientation and transgender identity and may have led to increased reporting of such offences.
A second report, Religiously Aggravated Offending in Scotland 2012-13, shows:
-A 24 per cent decrease in religiously aggravated offending, with a 24 per cent decrease in charges relating towards Catholicism and a 44 per cent decrease in charges relating to Protestantism.
-An increase in charges where conduct was derogatory towards Islam, from 19 charges in 2011-12 to 80 charges in 2012-13. The majority of these -57- were at one event, a “Campaign to Welcome Refugees” march in Glasgow where there was a counter demonstration by the Scottish Defence League.
-Police officers remain the most common victims of charges, accounting for nearly 40 per cent. Other workers were the victims in 12 per cent of the charges.
The first statistics on the Offensive Behaviour at Football and Threatening Communications (Scotland) Act 2012 were also published today. The main findings are:
-There were 268 charges of ‘offensive behaviour at regulated football matches’ in the first full financial year.
-The majority of charges were at football stadia.
-The conviction rate for the first 13 months of the act was 68 per cent. This is broadly comparable with the conviction rate for racially aggravated offences.
Minister for Community Safety 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. This is borne out by today’s figures - we are not becoming more intolerant as a society, but we are becoming less tolerant of those who hold prejudiced beliefs.
“The firm action taken against the SDL and what appears to be increased reporting of crimes against people on the basis of disability or sexual orientation confirms that zero tolerance approach.
“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. And earlier this week we announced that 18 community groups would share in £3 million to tackle sectarianism, part of an additional investment of £9 million in anti-sectarian initiatives.
“We will continue to work closely with the Muslim community to provide reassurance, ensure community safety across the whole of Scotland and take forward the fight against extremism on all sides.
“The statistics from the first year of the Offensive Behaviour Act show that strong action is being taken to tackle the actions of the small minority of fans who indulge in offensive behaviour at football. However, it is clear that the vast majority of fans are well-behaved and a credit to Scotland’s national game.”
Lord Advocate Frank Mulholland QC said: “I welcome the reduction in the majority of hate crimes committed in Scotland in the last 12 months.
“It is encouraging to see a 12 per cent drop in charges motivated by racial prejudice and a 15 per cent reduction for criminality involving religious hatred. There is no place for complacency and I hope the downward trend continues in the coming years.
“What I do find concerning is the rise in offences committed against individuals because of their sexual orientation. I hope that this is the result of the increased confidence in reporting which has encouraged more people to report this type of offending, but it is something we will closely monitor and explore ways we can look to reducing such offending, as we have done with other forms of hate crime.
“Prosecution may be seen as a blunt tool which can only be used after an offence has been committed. COFPS and the Scottish Government are engaging with schools and local communities to change attitudes. Working with such groups, and members of the public, we believe that in time such offences will reduce as Scotland becomes a fairer and, more tolerant society to live in.
“Let me reiterate that 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.”
The reports being published today are:
Hate Crime in Scotland 2012-13 Hate Crime in Scotland, 2012-13
Charges Reported Under the Offensive Behaviour and Threatening Communications Scotland) Act (2012) in 2012-13
Religiously Aggravated Offending in Scotland 2012-13 http://www.scotland.gov.uk/Publications/2013/06/1944
An examination of the evidence on Sectarianism in Scotland http://www.scotland.gov.uk/Publications/2013/06/8109