CRIMES motivated by religious prejudice, otherwise known as ‘sectarian’ crimes – a subject which saw bitter protest & debate at the Scottish Parliament lasts year amid attempts by the Scottish Government to use widely unpopular legislative means to deal with the underlying religious bigotry in Scots society have shown a large recorded rise of 29% on last year, according to data released by the Crown Office this week.
However, the figures released by the Crown Office do not include offences covered by the Offensive Behaviour at Football and Threatening Communications (Scotland) Act 2012 which came into force on 1 March 2012. Provisional figures show that 42 charges were reported to the procurator fiscal under this act in March 2012. In all but two the initial decision made was that court proceedings were to be commenced.
A Press Release issued by the Crown Office on Thursday, blamed the large recorded increase of religious prejudice crimes as “likely to be partly due to increased awareness, reporting and recording of these crimes, following several incidents which received significant media attention during 2011-12.”
However there are those who doubt the figures and the sincerity of the Lord Advocate & his staff to keep pace with a class of particular crime that appears to have gone under-reported and under-recorded by Scotland’s prosecuting & Police services due to an unwillingness to tackle Scotland’s secret, deep rooted sectarian problem.
Commenting on the figures of sectarian crime, Lord Advocate Frank Mulholland said: “The Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service is absolutely determined to play its part in confronting the problems of offending motivated by religious prejudice. Such behaviour is completely unacceptable in modern Scotland.”
While critics have given some praise to the Lord Advocate for addressing the issue of sectarian offences, some have pointed out that it is now an established fact the same Crown Office which Mr Mulholland now leads as Lord Advocate ordered the destruction of historical statistics on sectarian crime in Scotland, to avoid any debate & questioning of the data during the Scottish Parliament’s Justice Committee’s investigation of the Offensive Behaviour at Football and Threatening Communications (Scotland) Bill
Scottish Law Reporter covered the destruction of the sectarian data by the Crown Office, here : SECTARIAN SCOTLAND COVER-UP : Crown Office admits it destroyed sectarian offences data ‘showing majority of crimes were against Catholics’. The data on sectarian offences was apparently destroyed after Professor Tom Devine had urged msps at the Scottish Parliament to request sight of the material for further study.
The Crown Office report on Hate Crime Statistics can be viewed online here : Hate Crime in Scotland - May 2012 and the report on religious aggravated offending in Scotland 2010-2011 can be viewed online HERE
The Press Release from the Crown Office on Hate Crime statistics :
This brings together figures for crimes motivated by prejudice based on: Race; Religion; Disability; Sexual Orientation and Transgender Identity.
Speaking on the publication of the statistics, the Lord Advocate, Frank Mulholland QC, said: “In the last twelve months there have been a significant number of crimes brought to court arising from an underlying motive of prejudice and it is encouraging to see that many more of those subjected to such offences now have the confidence to report them. We would urge the public to report all hate crimes to the police. They can have confidence that all such crimes will be investigated carefully and prosecuted robustly. We have a zero-tolerance approach for any such offences and will not tolerate bigotry and prejudice which can have no place in modern Scotland. Although not included in these statistics, we have already seen 42 charges reported to COPFS in relation to offences in contravention on the Offensive Behaviour at Football and Threatening Communications (Scotland) Act 2012 since it came into force on 1 March. To date, in all but two the initial decision made was that court proceedings were to be commenced.”
The main findings are: The figures for crimes motivated by racial prejudice show a rise of 8% on last year. This is the highest number reported in the last 6 years. In total, where there was sufficient evidence, action was taken in 95% of charges with a further 2% awaiting a decision on how to proceed.
The Lord Advocate said: “Prejudice and hatred which finds expression in criminal behaviour has no place in Scotland. As prosecutors we take a tough stance on crimes motivated by racial prejudice because we see the upset it brings to individuals and the corrosive effect it has on communities.”
Chris Oswald, Head of Policy & Communications at the Equality & Human Rights Commission, said: "Crimes motivated by prejudice have a devastating effect both on the immediate victims and the wider community: they taint our values of a civilised, tolerant society. These figures highlight a six-year high in crimes motivated by racial prejudice. It is clear that there is still a way to go to ensure that no-one becomes a victim simply because of who they are perceived to be. “However, the figures also suggest that more people are coming forward to report targeted crimes. It is encouraging that there appears to be increased confidence that criminal justice agencies will deal appropriately and robustly with hate crime. The figures also highlight the need for robust data gathering and sharing, so that the criminal justice sector can continue to develop a clear picture of who is committing these crimes and why.”
The main findings are: The figures for crimes motivated by religious prejudice show a rise of 29% on last year, and the highest number of charges since the legislation came into force. In total, where there was sufficient evidence, action was taken in 97% of charges with a further 3% awaiting a decision on how to proceed. This large increase is likely to be partly due to increased awareness, reporting and recording of these crimes, following several incidents which received significant media attention during 2011-12.
The Lord Advocate said: “The Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service is absolutely determined to play its part in confronting the problems of offending motivated by religious prejudice. Such behaviour is completely unacceptable in modern Scotland.”
Superintendent David Brand from the Football Coordination Unit for Scotland (FoCUS) said : “I believe we have made real inroads into ridding football of offensive behaviour with signs that fans themselves are changing their behaviour for the better. Having been closely involved with the game and supporters for some time now, I certainly feel like we’ve made a big leap forward.”
The main findings are: In total, where there was sufficient evidence, action was taken in 81% of charges with a further 12% awaiting a decision on how to proceed. The figures for charges received relating to disability show a rise of 20 since last year the first full year of implementation. The most common reason for taking no action for hate crimes motivated by prejudice of disability was the lack of sufficient admissible evidence for the substantial charge.
The Lord Advocate said: “Crimes motivated by prejudice against disability are particularly challenging due to the nature of the offence and while there has been an increase in the number of offences reported, there is still work to be done to provide victims with the confidence to report such offences. I can reassure any victim of such an offence that it will be thoroughly investigated and prosecuted robustly.”
Richard Hamer, Director of External Affairs at Capability Scotland said: "Todays figures are disappointing from a position of the actual number of prosecutions, particularly given the significant numbers of charges relating to race, sexual orientation and religion.They are also concerning in the light of the Scottish Commissioner for Children and Young People's recent report which identified bullying and harassment of disabled children as being a routine part of their lives. However, we welcome the rise in cases reported and look forward to action being taken to address the clear issue relating to the gathering of admissible evidence."
Sexual Orientation and Transgender Identity
The main findings are: The figures for reports received relating to sexual orientation show a rise of 46% on last year, the first full year of implementation. In total, where there was sufficient evidence, action was taken in 95% of charges with a further 3% awaiting a decision on how to proceed.
In total, where there was sufficient evidence, action was taken in 81% (13 out of 16) of charges with a further 19% (3 charges) awaiting a decision on how to proceed. The figures for reports received relating to transgender identity show a rise of 2 charges on last year, the first full year of implementation.
The Lord Advocate said: “Every individual, regardless of their sexual orientation or transgender identity, has the right to live free from violence, and without fear of humiliation, harassment or abuse, based on prejudice.”
Tim Hopkins of the Equality Network said: “The big rise in prosecutions for homophobic hate crime is not surprising – the law is new and more people are now reporting crimes to the police. But surveys indicate that around 50,000 people in Scotland have faced homophobic or transphobic hate crime, and a lot of it is unreported. It’s really important that people report hate crimes, direct to the police or via third parties such as LGBT organisations, so that action can be taken to reduce the problem.”