The Scottish Government has published Hate Crime figures for 2015 – 2016.
The statistics, which show an increase in reported crimes when compared to the previous year, are based on incidents reported to the police.
Race Hate incidents remain the largest category, with 3712 incidents reported. However, this is the lowest figure since 2003-04.
Most other categories show an increase in reported incidents. Both sexual orientation aggravated crimes and transgender identity aggravated crimes showed large increases, with the figures for last year being the highest since such incidents were recorded. There were 1020 incidents related to sexual orientation, of which 89% (848) resulted in court proceedings. There were 30 incidents related to transgender of which 67% (20) resulted in court proceedings.
Disability aggravated crimes also increased dramatically, with last year’s figures being the highest on record. There were 201 incidents of which 83% (167) resulted in court proceedings.
Religiously aggravated crime showed a slight increase on the previous year but was still lower than earlier years. Excluding those listed under the Offensive Behaviour at Football (OBF) legislation, there were 581 incidents of which 90% (525) resulted in court proceedings. The report estimates there were an additional 50 incidents, logged under OBF legislation. Whereas reported incidents of anti-Catholic and anti-Semitic crimes fell (299 and 18 respectively), there was an alarming increase in the number of anti Islam crimes reported (from 71 the previous year to 134 last year).
All these statistics should be treated with a degree of caution. The increase in reported crimes may be as a result of people having more confidence in the reporting process rather than actual increase in hate incidents. Last year both Police Scotland and the Equality Network conducted campaigns to raise people’s awareness of hate crime and this probably resulted in more incidents being reported. The fact that incidents can be reported in a number of ways, including online, may also have encouraged victims to come forward. The willingness of the authorities to prosecute alleged perpetrators may also have encouraged more people to report hate incidents. If more people are reporting incidents, that is something to be welcomed.
Both the Scottish Government and Police Scotland agree there is more that needs doing. Michael Matheson, the Scottish Government’s Cabinet Secretary for Justice, said: “One incident of hate crime is one too many. Intolerance in any form is simply unacceptable…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.”
A similar message came from Police Scotland’s Chief Superintendent Barry McEwan said: “we must continue to work with all communities to encourage reporting and to get the message across that hate crime will not be tolerated.”