Hate crimes in Scotland reach 12-year high as prosecutors pledge 'robust' action

Line of Police Scotland officers
-Credit: (Image: PA Archive)

The number of hate crime charges reported in Scotland has risen to the highest level in more than a decade.

Figures published by the Crown Office found there 5,992 charges brought last year with at least one hate crime element, an increase of 1.5 per cent and the highest number since 2011-12.

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

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 per cent compared.

Sexual orientation aggravated crime was the second most commonly reported type of hate crime although the number of charges reported decreased by 5.7 per cent.

Dorothy Bain, the Lord Advocate, 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 per cent 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 per cent fewer than in 2022-23.

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.

Pauline McNeill, Scottish Labour justice spokeswoman, said: "We have always supported the underlying principles of the Hate Crime Act but we have also been very clear about our concerns around its implementation.

"For the Hate Crime Act to work, Police Scotland must be properly resourced to deal with the volume of hate crime reports.

"Scottish Labour has also called for the protected characteristic of sex to be included as a hate crime aggravator to the bill and for a new and comprehensive communication strategy to ensure the public is aware of how the act works in practice.

“We cannot allow the incompetence of the SNP to prevent Hate Crime legislation from working as it was intended.”

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