Scotland sees rise in number of race hate cases

Members of the Scottish Defence League demonstrate in Glasgow. Picture: PA
Members of the Scottish Defence League demonstrate in Glasgow. Picture: PA
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The number of charges for hate crime against disabled people more than doubled from 60 in 2011-12 to 136 last year, official figures have revealed.

The increased incidence of abuse against the disabled was identified in Scottish Government statistics which also found a rise in homophobic abuse and Islamophobia in Scotland.

An analysis of hate crime in Scotland found that there were 729 charges relating to offences aggravated by prejudice towards sexual orientation in 2012-13, an increase on the 650 charges recorded in 2011-12 and the 452 reported the year before that.

When it came to charges connected to derogatory behaviour towards Islam, they rose from 19 in 2011-12 to 80 in 2012-13.

The rise in Islamophobic-related charges was attributed to behaviour at one event in Glasgow, where the Scottish Defence League organised a counter- demonstration to a “Campaign to Welcome Refugees” march. The majority of charges – 57 – resulted from incidents at the event.

Overall, however, there was a decrease in both racist and religiously aggravated offending in Scotland, according to a series of government reports that looked at hate crime, religiously aggravated offending and the first annual statistics published on the new Offensive Behaviour Act, which scrutinises football matches.

In total, there were 4,012 race charges recorded in Scotland in 2012-13, a decrease of 12 per cent on the previous year and the lowest level since 2003-4.

Launching the research, the community safety minister Roseanna Cunningham said the Scottish Government would work to tackle homophobic hatred and abuse against disabled people.

There was, she said, evidence that the rising number of charges relating to abuse against disabled people and the rise in homophobic abuse was down to a increased willingness to report such crimes.

“There is some suggestion from within both of those communities that this may simply be an increased confidence in reporting, because they no longer as communities are prepared to tolerate this behaviour so they have growing confidence that the police will act quickly to deal with it as well,” she said.

But activists fighting for equality for disabled people and homosexuals were concerned by the figures.

Richard Harner, the director of external affairs at Capability Scotland, said: “Whilst the majority of Scots treat disabled people as equal members of our society, it’s an unfortunate truth that a small minority choose to persecute them simply because of their impairment.”

Tim Hopkins, of the gay rights campaign group Equality Network, said: “We are concerned by the level of crime and we know that there is a lot of crime that still goes unreported. So it is a very big problem.”

Figures examining the new Offensive Behaviour at Football and Threatening Communications (Scotland) Act 2012 showed that there were 268 charges in 2012-13. The majority of those were as a result of behaviour at football stadia.


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