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Reports of hate crimes against gay people rise

REPORTS of hate crimes against people on the grounds of their sexuality have soared by one-quarter, reflecting a greater ­freedom within society to report intolerance, according to campaigners.

A total of 890 such crimes were reported in Scotland last year - a rise of 22 per cent on 2012-13 - making it the second most common form of hate crime, according to new figures.

Meanwhile, there was a 12 per cent increase in hate crimes against disabled people, with 154 such offences reported last year.

Colin MacFarlane, director of Stonewall Scotland, said it was a sad reality for many lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Scots that they faced hate crime every day. But he drew positives from the figures, saying: "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.

"Stonewall Scotland's research shows, however, that more than one-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."

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

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

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

Offences with a religious ­aggravation, including those ­prosecuted under legislation aimed at curbing sectarianism in football, fell by 17 per cent 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 at and around football matches in 2013-14, a drop of 24 per cent on the previous year.

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

Scotland's top prosecutor, Lord Advocate Frank Mulholland QC, 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 per cent 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.

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."

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.

Superintendent Gavin Phillip of Police Scotland's safer communities division said the force recognised that "hate crimes are bigoted acts towards often marginalised and vulnerable communities which can have long-lasting effects and are completely unacceptable".

He added that tackling this "abhorrent crime" was "an ­operational priority".

Contextual targeting label: 
Football

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