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Lord Advocate promises ‘robust’ action as hate crimes hit 12-year high

The latest figures on hate crime charges have been published (David Cheskin/PA)
The latest figures on hate crime charges have been published (David Cheskin/PA)

The number of hate crime charges reported in Scotland rose to their highest level in more than a decade last year, figures show.

In 2023-24, 5,992 charges with at least one hate crime element were reported, 1.5% more than the total of 5,905 in 2022-23.

This is the highest number reported since 2011-12, according to the official data published by the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service (COPFS).

The data covers the year up to March 31 2024 and does not include figures relating to the new Hate Crime and Public Order (Scotland) Act which came into force on April 1.

Dorothy Bain
Lord Advocate Dorothy Bain KC said that prosecutors are committed to tackling crimes motivated by hatred and prejudice (Andrew Milligan/PA)

The new law consolidated existing hate crime legislation and created a new offence of stirring up hatred against protected characteristics.

The latest figures show that racial crime remains the most commonly reported hate crime, with 3,392 charges relating to race crime reported in 2023-24, an increase of 4.6% compared to 2022-23.

Sexual orientation aggravated crime was the second most commonly reported type of hate crime although the number of charges reported decreased by 5.7% in 2023-24 to 1,818.

Lord Advocate Dorothy Bain KC has pledged to continue the robust prosecution of such offences.

She said: “Crimes motivated by intolerance or prejudice must not be allowed to impact Scottish communities. Hate crime has hugely damaging effects on victims, their families, and the wider community.

“As prosecutors, we take very seriously our responsibility to protect victims and members of the public from these hate-fuelled offences.

“Scottish prosecutors are committed to tackling crimes motivated by hatred and prejudice and will continue their work to ensure people can be confident that reports of such offending will be responded to fairly and robustly.

“Nobody in Scotland should fear being targeted by abuse or violence for who they are.

“The Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service will play its part in helping to create a safer society in Scotland by resolutely prosecuting such crimes and seeking justice for those who find themselves being victimised through the ignorance or bigotry of others.”

The figures showed that the number of disability aggravated charges increased by 22% to 903 in 2023-24, the highest annual number of charges reported since the legislation creating this aggravation came into force in 2010.

There were 84 charges reported in 2023-24 with an aggravation of transgender identity, compared to 67 in 2022-23.

And 523 charges with a religious aggravation were reported in 2023-24, 12% fewer than in 2022-23.

The figures relate to the number of charges rather than the number of individuals charged or the number of incidents that gave rise to such charges.

In total, 88% of charges reported in 2023-24 led to court proceedings.

The report does not include information on convictions or conviction rates, and many of the charges reported in 2023-24 will not yet have reached conviction stage.

The new legislation came into force in April after sparking controversy, with some raising concerns about a potential silencing of free speech.

In the first week of the new law being introduced, 7,152 hate crime complaints were made online, though of these only 240 were recorded as hate crimes.