Hate crime charges in Scotland rise 4% in a year

There has been a 4 per cent increase in the number of charges with at least one element of hate crime in the past year, according to new figures.

Lord Advocate James Wolffe QC, who is soon to leave the position, vowed a robust approach from the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service (COPFS) after the report on hate crime in Scotland 2020/21 was published on Friday.

It shows the total number of charges reported to COPFS containing at least one element of hate crime increased to 5,525 in 2020/21 – 4 per cent more than 2019/20.

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Mr Wolffe said: “Scottish prosecutors are committed to tackling crimes motivated by hatred and prejudice.

“Any victim of such offending should come forward and report it to the appropriate authorities.

“They can be confident that prosecutors will continue to respond to any such report robustly, appropriately and fairly.

“These crimes do not only affect individual victims, they have far reaching consequences for society as a whole.

“No-one should be targeted because of their race, religion, disability, transgender identity or sexual orientation and the Crown takes seriously its responsibility to protect the public from such offending.”

While the majority of hate crime charges contained a racial element, the proportion of race crime has decreased in the past decade from the peak 75 per cent in 2011/12 (4,547) to 59 per cent in 2020/21 (3,285).

But last year saw a 6 per cent increase in race crimes compared to 2019/20.

The number of charges reported with a sexual orientation aggravation increased by 5 per cent in 2020/21 to 1,580, with the proportion of these increasing from 11 per cent to 29 per cent in the same decade.

One fewer aggravation of transgender identity was reported in 2020/21 (46) compared to 47 last year.

Religious aggravation charges also dropped 14 per cent in the past year with 573 incidents recorded in the 2020/21 report.

But the number of disability-aggravated charges increased by 14 per cent to 448 in 2020/21.

Justice secretary Keith Brown said: “We recognise that hate crime has a hugely damaging effect on victims, their families and communities and we all must play our part to challenge it.

“These figures show there is more to do to tackle hatred and prejudice in Scotland and we will continue our work to ensure it will not be tolerated.

“As we press ahead with the development of our new hate crime strategy, which will include implementation of the Hate Crime and Public Order (Scotland) Act 2021, we will consider how we can continue to raise awareness and encourage reporting.

“We will also consider how to more effectively break down barriers to reporting.

“It is important that we continue to take steps to tackle hate crime, continue to raise awareness and work to reassure communities that we are doing everything we can to prevent hate crime in all its forms.

“Anyone who experiences or witnesses a hate crime should report it to the police or via a third party reporting centre.”

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