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SCOTLAND saw a rise in the number of charges against people for homophobic abuse, Islamophobic abuse and insulting behaviour towards disabled people last year, new figures have revealed.
Scottish Government research has revealed that there were 729 charges relating to an offence aggravated by prejudice towards sexual orientation in 2012/13, an increase on the 650 charges recorded in 2011/12 and the 452 reported the year before that.
The number of charges related to an offence aggravated by prejudice towards disability more than doubled to 136 last year from the 60 charges recorded in 2011/12.
A rise in Islamophobic-related charges was attributed to behaviour at one event in Glasgow, where the Scottish Defence League organised a counter demonstration to a “Campaign to Welcome Refugees” march. Overall, there was an increase in charges connected with derogatory behaviour towards Islam from 19 in 2011/12 to 80 in 2012/13. The majority of charges (57) resulted from behaviour at the march and counter demonstration.
There was, however, a decrease in overall racist and religiously aggravated offending in Scotland, according to a series of Government reports into hate crime, religiously aggravated offending and the first annual statistics published on the new Offensive Behaviour Act, which scrutinises football matches.
The Community Safety Minister Roseanna Cunningham gave a cautious welcome to the overall drop in racist charges, but warned that there was no room for complacency emphasising that prejudice would not be tolerated in Scotland.
She said there was evidence to suggest that the increased incidence of charges relating to homophobia and prejudice against disabled people could be explained by a greater willingness of the victims of such abuse to report crime.
Ms Cunningham said: “The firm action taken against the SDL (in relation to Islamophobia) and what appears to be increased reporting of crimes against people on the basis of disability or sexual orientation confirms that zero tolerance approach.”