Religious hate crimes in Scotland have surged 10 per cent in the last year, according to research released today by the Scottish government, reports Kevin Meagher.
Religious hate crimes in Scotland have surged 10 per cent in the last year, according to research released today by the Scottish government.
The report (pdf), ‘Religiously Aggravated Offending in Scotland 2010/11’, found there were 693 charges aggravated by religious prejudice last year – the highest in four years.
Of these, a staggering 58 per cent were against Catholics while 37 per cent were against Protestants; 2.3 per cent related to Judaism and 2.1 per cent to Islam.
Section 74 of the 2003 Scottish Criminal Justice Act states an offence is religiously aggravated if the offender evinces ‘malice and ill will’ towards their victim on the basis of their perceived membership of a particular religion.
Worryingly, 544 of the 693 charges – 78.5 per cent – were from people under 40, with just 17 cases – 2.5 per cent – from the over 60 age group. Rather than dying out, religious hatred in Scotland is something generally practiced by younger people.
A fifth of offences concerned the 16-20 age group.
Bishop Philip Tartaglia, a spokesman for the Catholic Church in Scotland, said the figures were evidence of serious underlying bigotry against ordinary Catholics in Scotland:
“Since Catholics represent just 16% of Scotland’s population, the fact that they account for almost 60% of the victims of sectarian crime reflects poorly on modern Scotland and is an indicator of entrenched hostility on a worrying scale.”
Bishop Tartaglia said the figures would make a “useful contribution to the sectarianism debate” but highlighted that it had “taken five years and repeated requests” from the Catholic Church to get the breakdown of the figures.
He claimed that in the intervening period:
“…hundreds of Crown office documents have been destroyed, preventing a more complete and balanced analysis.”
Campaign director Dave Scott said:
“It’s particularly worrying that 60% of those convicted are under 30. We cannot lose another generation to the battles of the past.”
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• Labour: Anti-sectarian legislation is right in spirit, but flawed in execution – James Kelly MSP, November 7th 2011
• Sectarian Law will address “ugly element” within Scottish society – John Finnie MSP, November 3rd 2011
• The hate at the heart of the Orange Order – Kevin Meagher, September 15th 2011
• Northern Ireland: Are the sectarian divides beginning to crumble? – Ed Jacobs, March 15th 2011
• Beware of pushing Catholics out of the progressive club – Kevin Meagher, September 18th 2010