Hate crimes against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people in Scotland are at their highest ever level, according to new figures.
Charges in some areas have doubled since last year.
Statistics released on Friday morning, while the media were in an election frenzy, indicate the number of charges with a sexual orientation factor totalled 1075 in the year to March 2017 – an overall increase of 5% on the previous year.
However, in analysis conducted by Pink Saltire, when the figures are broken down by Procurator Fiscal offices, they show a worrying patchwork of hate crime incidents. Stirling saw an increase of 65% over the past year, Kilmarnock an increase of 53% and Dundee an increase of 54%. Charges in Greenock doubled in the year and in Dunfermline were up by 155% on 2015-16.
The highest volume of charges were in Glasgow at 344 incidents. There were 161 charges in Edinburgh.
Charges with a transgender identity factor are reported separately and also saw an increase year on year, although overall numbers remain small at 40 for the whole of Scotland.
Pipa Riggs, who lives in Fife, has personally suffered several incidents of harassment and intimidation recently, based on their sexuality, and told us:
“Despite being a little confused in the beginning and vague about what would or could be done to help, the team at Dunfermline Police Office got better and better with each incident. Two people were eventually charged but we still don’t feel safe where we live so are in the process of moving.”
Hate crime against LGBT people has increased in all but one of the last 7 years in Scotland. Despite the increase in the number of charges, there is still a view by campaigners that hate crimes against LGBT people are under-reported.
Scottish Government Minister for Community Safety, Annabelle Ewing, said:
“I remain concerned that hate crimes are under-reported and want to encourage anyone who has been subjected to such appalling acts to come forward to ensure that perpetrators can be dealt with appropriately. We will keep engaging with community leaders on how best to raise awareness of how such crimes can be reported. We will continue to work with Police Scotland and others to ensure a robust response to perpetrators.”
This is a view supported by Pipa, who feels the time it takes to report an incident could put people off taking it any further.
“The fear of a recurrence is such that, if we are arriving home and see the youths near our home, we drive past and come back an hour or so later. We don’t even leave the house if they are outside, because nobody wants to spend hours in a police station.”
Several areas did report a drop in charges in the year, including Airdrie, Lerwick, Inverness, Forfar and Perth. At the moment there is no clear definition of where hate crimes against non-binary or intersex people sit within these statistics.
Around 90 Police Scotland officers were trained by Equality Network in 2016, on behalf of the Equality & Human Rights Commission, creating a network of LGBTI Liaison Officers around the country.
Chief Superintendent Barry McEwan, Head of Safer Communities, Police Scotland, added:
“I would always encourage anyone who has been the victim of hate crime in any form, whether because of their sexual orientation, gender identity, religion, ethnicity or any other individual circumstance, to come forward and report it to the police. It is only through reporting offences that we can form a more complete picture of the issue and address it in the most robust manner possible.”
Race hate continued to be the most common form of hate crime in Scotland at 3349 charges, although this had fallen by 10% on the previous year, the fourth year in a row it has reduced. There was also a reduction in reported crimes with a disability factor, at 188 charges, down 6%. Religious hate crime increased by 13% compared to 2015-16 figures.
The full breakdown of charges by Procurator Fiscal office for sexual orientation is below, followed by the transgender identity table.
The full publication can be viewed at this link: 2016-17 Scottish Hate Crime Statistics
Sexual orientation aggravated crime (Charges reported 2010-11 to 2016-17)
Transgender identity aggravated crime (Charges reported 2010-11 to 2016-17)