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Hate crime charges relating to disability and sexual orientation rise: report

The report showed an increase in disability related hate crime (David Jones/PA)
The report showed an increase in disability related hate crime (David Jones/PA)

Hate crime charges relating to sexual orientation and disability increased last year, according to new figures.

A Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service (COPFS) report found that 5,640 charges containing at least one element of hate crime were reported to it in 2021-22, which was 0.2% down on 2020-21.

The figures showed that in 2021-22, 666 charges with an aggravation of prejudice relating to disability were reported, which was 44% more than in 2020-21 and the highest number since the legislation creating this aggravation came into force in 2010.

There was also an increase in charges with an aggravation of prejudice relating to sexual orientation, which rose to 1,781, an increase of 10% on 2020-21.

Racial crime remained the most commonly reported hate crime with 3,107 charges relating to race crime reported in 2021-22, a decrease of 7% on the previous year.

Lord Advocate Dorothy Bain QC said: “Hate crime has damaging consequences for individuals, our communities and society as a whole. No-one should find themselves targeted or abused for the simple act of being who they are.

“Offences which are fired by hatred and prejudice against race, religion, disability, transgender identity or sexual orientation will not be tolerated.

“The Crown takes very seriously our responsibility to protect the public from this offending.

“We would urge any victim or witness to such crime to come forward and report it. They can be confident that Scottish prosecutors are committed to a robust approach to every report of hate crime they receive.”

The proportion of charges that contain a racial element has generally decreased over the last decade, from 75% in 2012-13 to 55% in 2021-22.

However the proportion of hate crime charges that relate to sexual orientation has increased from 13% to 32% over the same period.

Charges with an aggravation of prejudice relating to transgender identity increased last year to 84 charges, which was 87% more than the 45 charges reported in 2020-21.

This is the highest number of such charges reported since the legislation introducing this aggravation came into force in 2010.

There were 512 charges with a religious aggravation reported in 2021-22, 16% fewer than in 2020-21.

In the last year for the first time the proportion of disability related charges (12%) was greater than the proportion of religious related charges (9%).

The report does not include information on convictions or conviction rates.

Justice Secretary Keith Brown said: “Hate crime is a corrosive form of offending that has hugely damaging effects on victims, their families and the wider community. These latest figures show that we all must redouble efforts to tackle hatred and prejudice in Scotland – it will not be tolerated.

“That is why the Scottish Government has committed to developing a new hate crime strategy, for publication later this year. Building on the successful delivery of the Tackling Prejudice and Building Connected Communities Action Plan, the new strategy will look at where we need to bolster approaches to effectively confront hate crime offending in Scotland. The strategy will also complement implementation of a modernised hate crime legislative framework, fit for the 21st century.

“To help support strategy development we have brought together a range of third sector organisations and public bodies – in the form of a Strategic Partnership Group – who each possess specific expertise in matters connected to tackling hate crime, eradicating prejudice, fostering community cohesion and advancing equalities and human rights.

“We continue to encourage anyone who experiences or witnesses a hate crime to report it directly to the police or via a third party reporting service.”