People affected by hate crime have been encouraged to come forward to police to ensure perpetrators can be properly dealt with.
Minister for Community Safety was speaking following the publication of a series of reports covering hate crime, religiously aggravated offences and the Offensive Behaviour at Football and Threatening Communications (Scotland) Act 2012 which show:
Racial crime charges are the most common brought by police, but with a decrease of 10% compared to 2015/16
Sexual orientation aggravated charges increased by 5% compared to 2015/16
The number of religiously aggravated charges is the highest since 2012/13
44% of victims in religiously aggravated charges were police officers
377 charges were made under the Offensive Behaviour Act , an increase of 32% on the previous year. 140 of these charges relate to the Scottish Cup Final on 21 May 2016.
Minister for Community Safety Annabelle Ewing said: “Any crime motivated by prejudice is absolutely unacceptable. While the statistics show a decrease in reported racial crimes, there have been increases in those related to sexual orientation, religion and transgender identity and we cannot be complacent about these crimes are dealt with.
“I remain concerned that hate crimes are under-reported and want to encourage anyone who has been subjected to such appalling acts to come forward to ensure that perpetrators can be dealt with appropriately. We will keep engaging with community leaders on how best to raise awareness of how such crimes can be reported and in the meantime. We will continue to work with Police Scotland and others to ensure a robust response to perpetrators.
“Scotland does not exist in isolation from the rest of the world and we know that global events have an impact on the levels of hate crime that different communities are subjected to. We must ensure that we have appropriate legislation in place to deal with those who continue to perpetrate prejudice, bigotry and hatred, which is why I commissioned the Independent Review of Hate Crime Legislation in Scotland and expect that its findings will help us to ensure that our hate crime legislation is fit for the 21st century.
“The number of charges under the Offensive Behaviour Act demonstrate that we still have a problem with offensive and abusive behaviour related to football matches and that we need legislation to give our police the powers required to ensure that football is not immune from the standards expected in the rest of society.”
Chief Superintendent Barry McEwan, Head of Safer Communities, Police Scotland, added: “I would always encourage anyone who has been the victim of hate crime in any form, whether because of their sexual orientation, gender identity, religion, ethnicity or any other individual circumstance, to come forward and report it to the police. It is only through reporting offences that we can form a more complete picture of the issue and address is in the most robust manner possible.
“Police Scotland will not tolerate any attempts to target any community by any misguided individual or group and will work with all of our partners to resolve any issues and address any concerns. Should anyone become a victim of, or witness to, any hate crime, they should contact the police and report the incident, by calling 101 or 999 if it is an emergency.”