Scottish hate crime figures hit seven-year high

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THE number of people convicted of religious hate crime continues to rise in Scotland, new figures show.

There were 518 charges proved with a religious aggravator in 2011-12, the highest level in at least seven years, according to the Scottish Parliament.

The vast majority of cases were in the west of Scotland, where 414 charges were proven.

However, the north and east also recorded record highs.

It follows figures showing the number of people charged with religious hate crime rose to 876 in 2011-12, up 26 per cent from 693 the previous year.

Nil by Mouth, an anti-sectarian charity, believes the increase could be down to a rise in reporting, rather crime itself going up.

David Scott, campaign director, said: “I think it’s an increase in reporting. It’s been a tense 12 to 18 months in terms of the football and we’ve seen a real flare up in social media.”

He added: “The Crown Office is starting to give the matter a real focus.

“I’ve always thought it was under-reported, so what we are seeing now is a more realistic figure.”

He is offering to provide free rehabilitation work for people who commit sectarian offences and are given community sentences.

“Quite a lot don’t go to prison and so they don’t get that,” he said.

“A lot of people are not aware of what the words they use actually mean.

“I will be looking to see if we can get people around a table and work out a way of providing a free and effective rehabilitation programme for sectarian offenders.”