Hate Crime Victims Urged To Speak Out

Police are urging the victims of hate crime in Scotland to report any incidents, as officers admit official figures are a drop in the ocean.

Using Freedom of Information laws, Heart has discovered there were more than 5,800 hate crimes between last April and January.

Overall numbers are down on the previous year, but so-called 'Hate Incidents', including things like taunts, verbal abuse and inappropriate language which don't actually break the law, have jumped 25 per cent from 4,309 in 2013/14 to 5,301 in 2014/15.

The total number of hate crimes recorded between April 1st 2014 and January 31st 2015 was 5,814. Racially motivated crimes were by far the most common, at 4,345. Prejudice motivated by sexual orientation was recorded 898 times, there were 555 religiously motivated crimes reported, 164 linked to disability and 35 to abuse of transgender people.

Jacq from Edinburgh's registered blind and has been physically and verbally abused hundreds of times. She uses a white stick but wears glasses, and has been tripped up, pushed, had her stick stolen and been accused of pretending to be blind.

She told us about two incidents that particularly stick out in her mind.

Jacq believes the official figures don't reflect reality. She said:  "I've had people throw stuff at me in the street, accusing me of pretending to be blind and trying to trip me up for a joke. The list is actually endless.

"If I reported every single thing that happened to me I'd never be out of the police station.  I'd always be reporting hate crimes.

"I think a huge number of people experience hate crimes on a daily basis and maybe sometimes write them off because they might seem minor on that occasion, because they've experienced worse before."

Jacq has only reported one incident, and says the experience didn't make her feel confident about doing it again. That's something Police Scotland insist they're determined to change.

Hate crime in Scotland's fallen nearly 6% year on year, but Superintendent Ross Aitken agrees the real number of people suffering hateful behaviour motivated by prejudice is much higher. He says they want to see numbers rising, because it means more people are coming forward and police are doing their job.

Superintendent Aitken believes lower-level acts that don't actually break the law can be just as damaging as more dramatic incidents. He said: "It's a drip, drip effect. And if that person is being subjected to that every day of their lives, that has got a really corrosive effect on that individual.

"It affects their self-esteem, their confidence. We've got loads of examples of people who won't leave their homes. Now, I'm sorry, that's just unacceptable.

"You don't have to put up with that - you really don't."

If you've been the victim of behaviour motivated by prejudice, you can contact Police Scotland on 101.

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