22% Rise In Sexuality Hate Crimes

Hate crimes against people because of their sexuality are almost a quarter higher than they were last year while there has been a 12% rise in such attacks on disabled people, according to new figures.

Racial hate crimes - the most common form of hate crime in Scotland - also increased slightly in 2013-14, official statistics showed.

There were 4,148 such charges brought against people last year, accounting for almost 69% of all hate-crime charges.

While there was a 3% rise in racial crimes last year, the total for 2013-14 was also the second lowest since reports began.

A total of 890 crimes against people because of their sexuality were reported last year - a rise of 22% on 2012-13 - making it the second most common form of hate crime.

Meanwhile, a 12% increase in hate crimes against disabled people saw 154 such offences reported last year.

Scotland's top prosecutor, Lord Advocate Frank Mulholland QC, said he was concerned by the rise in offences linked to race and sexual orientation.

"Offending motivated by racial prejudice is at its second lowest level since 2003-4 despite a 3% rise,'' he said.

"However, there are still too many incidents in which people are targeted because of their race and we are firmly committed to prosecuting such crimes.

"I recently called on those affected by crime motivated by disability to come forward and report it to the police.

"I have long suspected these crimes are under-reported and I hope the 12% rise in reported crimes in this area is a result of the work prosecutors and police have done to gain the trust of this community.

"However, I am concerned about the increases in offences motivated by prejudice against sexual orientation and race.

"These show that there is still work to be done in those areas. I have said it before and I will say it again, there is no place in a modern Scotland for any behaviour motivated by prejudice and it will not be tolerated.

"We are heading in the right direction and I am confident that in time such offences will reduce as Scotland becomes an even fairer and more tolerant society to live in.''

Offences with a religious aggravation, including those prosecuted under legislation aimed at curbing sectarianism in football, fell by 17% to 635 - the lowest total since 2009-10.

The Offensive Behaviour at Football and Threatening Communications Act came into force in March 2012, with 203 charges brought under this of religiously aggravated crimes in and around football matches in 2013-14, a drop of 24% on the previous year.

Last year also saw 25 charges of hate crimes against transgender people, up from 14 in 2012-23.

Mr Mulholland said: "The figures published today show we are making progress in tackling some aspects of hate crime in Scotland.

"However, it is also clear that more needs to be done in other areas and we remain resolutely committed to doing so.''

He said the 24% drop in charges of religious offences in and around football matches was "encouraging'' and added: "The statistics show that over the last year there has been an average of one criminal charge for every five regulated football matches which have taken place in Scotland.

"While the Act has only been in force for two full years and therefore is too soon to conclude this is a trend, football grounds have in general been a safer, more tolerant environment over the last couple of years.

"It is also reassuring to see a reduction of around 15% in criminality motivated by religious prejudice, which is now at the lowest level for nine years.''

Equalities Secretary Shona Robison said: "No-one should have to face discrimination or prejudice in any form in 21st-century Scotland. It is never acceptable and it will not be tolerated.

"That's why we have been working closely with organisations and police to eradicate hate crime from Scottish society.''

She said more than £60 million was being spent on tackling inequality and discrimination between 2012 and 2015 which "shows that we take this issue very seriously''.

Ms Robison added: "The more we talk about it, the easier it will be for people to report hate crimes to the authorities.

"We are not becoming more intolerant as a society but we are becoming less tolerant of those who hold prejudiced beliefs.''

Colin MacFarlane, director of Stonewall Scotland, said: "The sad reality for many lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Scots is that that they face hate crime every day at home, in their communities and their workplaces.

"Whilst any single hate crime incident is one too many, this increase suggests that more LGBT people feel able to report these crimes to the police. This is a positive development.

"Stonewall Scotland's research shows, however, that more than a third of LGBT people still don't feel confident in reporting such incidents to the police and we will continue our work with Police Scotland to address this.

"Today's figures show that there has been lots done but there is still lots to do.''

Jan Savage, head of campaigns and policy at the charity Enable Scotland, said: "Whilst a rise in disability-related hate crime is concerning, at Enable Scotland we realise that this is also a strong indicator that more and more disabled people are exercising their rights to report hate crimes and reclaim their communities and the right to feel safe.

"What this also tells us is that there is a real need to tackle the root causes of disability-related hate crime and work harder to change attitudes about disability.''

Inclusion Scotland demanded action to tackle hate crimes against the disabled, with Sally Witcher raising fears that the number of such attacks that are reported could "just be the tip of an iceberg''.

She said: "The results of hate crime can be catastrophic.

"It might mean having to run a gauntlet of vicious and humiliating comments in the street, being afraid to go out, effectively being imprisoned in one's own home or even attacked in one's home. In the worst cases, it has meant death.

"It is entirely unacceptable and a breach of their human rights that any disabled people should live in fear in their communities, and even in their own homes.

"We want to see a Scotland where people are supported to live their lives as equal citizens, not blamed and bullied because they need support.''