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Hate Crime in Scotland 2022-23 | COPFS

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Legislation

Race crime is defined as any charge of racially aggravated harassment and behaviour in terms of Section 50A of the Criminal Law (Consolidation) (Scotland) Act 1995 or Section 18, 19, 21 or 23(1)a of the Public Order Act 1986 or any substantive charge that is racially aggravated in terms of Section 96 of the Crime and Disorder Act 1998. To prove a charge of racially aggravated harassment and behaviour two separate sources of evidence establishing the racial element are required. Evidence from a single source is sufficient to prove a racial aggravation which is attached to another substantive charge, in terms of Section 96 of the Crime and Disorder Act 1998.

Religiously aggravated offences are defined as substantive charges that include an aggravation of religiously motivated behaviour in terms of Section 74 of the Criminal Justice (Scotland) Act 2003.

Disability aggravated offences are defined as substantive charges that include an aggravation of prejudice relating to disability in terms of Section 1 of the Offences (Aggravation by Prejudice) (Scotland) Act 2009.

Sexual orientation aggravated offences are defined as substantive charges that include an aggravation of prejudice relating to sexual orientation in terms of Section 2 of the Offences (Aggravation by Prejudice) (Scotland) Act 2009.

Transgender identity aggravated offences are defined as substantive charges that include an aggravation of prejudice relating to transgender identity in terms of Section 2 of the Offences (Aggravation by Prejudice) (Scotland) Act 2009.

Definitions

Not separately prosecuted include charges which were not prosecuted, but where other charges for the same accused within the same case were prosecuted. In some cases, the charges which were prosecuted may have included details from the charges which were not prosecuted.  For example, two charges reported by the police may have been merged into one comprehensive charge and then prosecuted.

Direct measures include fiscal fines, fiscal compensation orders, fiscal work orders, warning letters and referral to diversion from prosecution schemes. The direct measures figures include a small number of charges which were not actioned, but where the accused was given a direct measure in respect of other charges within the same case. In some cases, the charges which were given a direct measure may have included details from the charges which were not actioned.

No action includes charges where a decision was taken not to proceed. This will include charges where there is insufficient evidence to proceed or where further action would be disproportionate. Table A below gives a breakdown of the reasons for no action in 2022-23.

Cases awaiting decision include those where no decision has yet been taken, and also those which have been reviewed and have been marked for “further enquiries” i.e. where more information is required before a final decision can be taken on whether to proceed.

Table A: Total number of charges where no action was taken, by reason, 2022-23

 

Racial

Religious

Disability

Sexual orientation

Transgender

Total number of charges – no action

61

7

12

17

1

 

Not a crime

0

0

1

0

0

Insufficient admissible evidence

30

4

7

4

1

Further action disproportionate

0

0

1

4

0

Mitigating circumstances

7

0

0

0

0

Other

24

3

3

9

0

Use of terms Sex and Gender

‘Sex’ can be considered to refer to whether someone is male or female based on their physiology, with ‘gender’ representing a social construct or sense of self that takes a wider range of forms.

Sex, as referred to in this bulletin, is generally identified by a police officer based on their assessment of whether a person presents as male or female. In most cases this is based on the physiology of a person rather than self-identified gender. It is recorded for operational purposes, such as requirements for searching. It is also included in the information reported to COPFS. However, in order to prosecute crime, information regarding the sex or gender of accused persons is not essential.  It should be noted that COPFS will respect and use the chosen pronouns of an accused person in all communications with them.

In this report we refer to ‘sex’ rather than ‘gender’ because this better reflects recording practices in relation to this information. In reality it is likely that recording includes a mixture of physiological and personal identity. The sex of a small number of accused is not recorded, where the police have not provided this information to COPFS.

Convictions

The figures in this publication relate to initial decisions taken by the Procurator Fiscal. Many of the charges reported in the most recent year, 2022-23, will not yet have reached a conclusion, so information on the final number convicted is not yet available.

Figures on convictions are published by the Scottish Government in Criminal Proceedings in Scotland statistics . Please note that there are significant differences in the way the Criminal Proceedings statistics measure activity in comparison to the figures in this report.  In particular, this publication is based on charges reported, while the Criminal Proceedings figures are based on persons prosecuted or convicted, by main charge only. One person can be reported with one or more charges against them. Additionally, this publication is based on the year the charge was reported to COPFS. The Criminal Proceedings figures are based on the year of disposal. These differences are described in more detail in Annex C of the Criminal Proceedings publication.

Conviction information on aggravations is available in Tables 12 and 13 of the latest Criminal Proceedings publication. Please note that figures for race crime cover convictions with racial aggravations only and do not include conviction information for racial charges, which accounted for 33% of racial crime in 2022-23.

The date of publication for convictions for 2021-22 will be made known when finalised on the Forthcoming Publications page of the Scottish Government website https://www2.gov.scot/Topics/Statistics/ForthcomingPubs

The Offensive Behaviour at Football and Threatening Communications (Scotland) Act 2012

The Offensive Behaviour at Football and Threatening Communications (Scotland) Act 2012 came into force on 1 March 2012 and was repealed on 20 April 2018. Previous editions of this publication prior to the repeal provided figures on the number of charges reported under the Act. There are no charges recorded on the COPFS database reported under the Act after 2017-18. If a charge reported in an earlier year under the Act contained a hate crime aggravation it will still be included in the overall figures for each type of hate crime into which it falls.

At the time of the repeal, COPFS conducted a review of all ongoing charges under the Act. This resulted in a number of such charges being amended to an alternative charge.

In many cases, charges under the Act did not include an aggravation, because the charge itself covered the relevant behaviour. However, in certain subsections of the Act, the charge did not include the behaviour against specific individuals or groups covered by the hate crime categories and in these instances the charge may have been reported with an aggravation. Where a charge that would previously have been reported and prosecuted under the Act has been amended to an alternative charge, that alternative charge may now include a statutory aggravation.

The repeal of the Act means that there is a discontinuity in the time series of figures given in this publication between 2016-17 and 2017-18. Figures for all categories of hate crime may be higher in 2017-18 and subsequent years than they otherwise would have been due to charges that would have been reported between 2013-14 to 2016-17 under the Offensive Behaviour at Football and Threatening Communications (Scotland) Act 2012 being reported as an alternative charge with an aggravation.

Conviction information on the Offensive Behaviour at Football and Threatening Communications (Scotland) Act 2012 is available in Annex E of the Criminal Proceedings in Scotland 2018-19 publication. Criminal Proceedings in Scotland, 2018-19, Annex E

Related Scottish Government publications

The Scottish Government published a report in January 2023 Police recorded hate crime – characteristics: updated study This provides an update on work by Scottish Government statisticians and Police Scotland to review the availability of information on hate crime recorded by the police in Scotland. It includes updated information on hate crimes recorded by the police during 2020-21 and 2021-22 by crime, by associated hate aggravation(s), and by local authority area. It also includes new details on the characteristics of hate crime, based on a random sample of cases recorded by the police in 2020-21. This is a follow up study to the previous report Characteristics of police recorded hate crime in Scotland published in 2021.

The Scottish Government previously published research based on COPFS data which provides details of the circumstances of charges with religious aggravations. This includes information on the religion targeted, the location where the offence was committed, and the age and gender of the accused. Research has been published relating to charges reported in each year from 2010-11 to 2017-18.

The Scottish Government also previously published research which provides details of the circumstances of charges reported in each year from 2012-13 to 2016-17 under the Offensive Behaviour at Football and Threatening Communications (Scotland) Act 2012. This includes information on the location where the offence was committed including the football stadium if appropriate, the nature of the offensive behaviour, the age and gender of the accused and their football team affiliation. Due to the repeal of the Act, no similar research was published relating to charges reported in 2017-18.

In December 2021 the Scottish Government published a report on implementation of the actions set out in the Tackling Prejudice and Building Connected Communities Action Plan. Building on progress in this area the Scottish Government published The Hate Crime Strategy for Scotland, on 24 March 2023. This sets out a vision for a Scotland where everyone lives free from hatred and prejudice and sets out key priorities for tackling hate crime in Scotland, including implementation of the Hate Crime and Public Order (Scotland) Act 2021. It provides three overarching aims:

  • Victims of hate crime are treated with fairness, compassion and in a trauma-informed manner in which their safety and recovery is a priority;
  • The nature, characteristics, and extent of hate crime in Scotland are more fully understood and effectively inform appropriate interventions and policy development;
  • Communities are empowered, inclusive and safe, and the underlying causes of hate crime are challenged.

A delivery plan, setting out immediate and longer-term activity in support of the strategy, will also be published in late 2023.

Related new legislation

The Hate Crime and Public Order (Scotland) Act 2021 was passed by the Scottish Parliament on 11 March 2021 and it received Royal Assent on 23 April 2021.  No commencement date has been confirmed for the provisions within the Act and therefore all existing hate crime legislation remains in force.

The Act seeks to modernise, consolidate and extend hate crime legislation in Scotland.  The Act will add two new groups to the list of protected characteristics currently covered by hate crime legislation: Age and Variations in Sex Characteristics.  All the aggravations will operate in the same way as those currently in existence.

The Act also creates a new suite of offences relating to stirring up of hatred that will apply in relation to all characteristics covered by the Act. Previous stirring up legislation only applied to the characteristic of race.

The Act will also abolish the common law offence of blasphemy.

Data sources, data quality and revisions

The information in this publication is taken from the COPFS operational database used to manage the processing of reports submitted to Procurators Fiscal by the police and other reporting agencies throughout Scotland. Since this is a live database, the figures given here may not exactly match those previously published. For instance, if the Procurator Fiscal amends a charge, the database only holds details of the amended charge.

This publication contains new figures for 2022-23, and revised figures for the previous two years. These reflect the most up-to date information recorded on the COPFS operational database at the time the publication was prepared (May 2023). Changes to the information recorded for earlier years are minimal, and no revisions have been made to these years.

The data included in this publication has undergone a series of validation checks. Where internal inconsistencies in the data, or missing information, have been identified, data on individual charges has been checked manually and corrected if necessary. This includes cross checking with information contained in case related documents where appropriate. Where necessary, data has also been cross checked with external sources, in particular data held by the Scottish Courts and Tribunal Service (SCTS) on cases that have come to court.

Checks have also been carried out on a sample of charges to ensure that the aggravation recorded has been added appropriately, with any errors identified corrected as necessary. This checking has primarily focussed on disability aggravated charges because historically this is the category of hate crime where most mistakes have been discovered.

The total number of charges relating to the hate crime category of transgender identity is small. The percentages derived from these figures should therefore be treated with caution, because they are based on small numbers.

Percentages may not add up to 100% due to rounding.

An official statistics publication for Scotland

Official and National Statistics are produced to high professional standards set out in the Code of Practice for Official Statistics.  Both undergo regular quality assurance reviews to ensure that they meet customer needs and are produced free from any political interference.

Correspondence and enquiries

For enquiries about this publication please contact:

Fiona Roberts
Management Information Unit
Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service
Email: fiona.roberts@copfs.gov.uk

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