Question: What is a hate crime?
Answer: Hate crimes are crimes that are motivated by prejudice of some kind. These are crimes where the victim is targeted because they are a member of a particular social group or have a particular characteristic, which the perpetrator has negative views or beliefs about.
In Scotland the law recognises crimes motivated by prejudice based on
- Race (including nationality, ethnicity and skin colour)
- Sexual Orientation
- Disability, including physical disability, learning disability and mental health difficutly
- Transgender Identity
Question: Why should I report a hate crime?
Answer: The vast majority of hate crimes are not reported to the police. If the police do not know about something, they cannot do anything about it and they cannot keep victims safe.
By reporting to the police:
- You may well put a stop to the behaviour
- You will help the police and partners build a picture of the nature and extent of hate crime in your area
- You will help the police and partners understand where their resources need to be focused
- If you are a victim, you will get access to support and advice
- You could prevent further incidents happening in the future
- You could stop minor incidents escalating to more serious ones
- You will raise awareness of the issue and lead to positive changes in your community
- Your information may lead to an arrest or conviction
Question: How do I prove that something is a hate crime?
Answer: It is not your responsibility to prove that a hate crime has occurred. It is the job of the police to gather evidence from a range of sources during their investigation of an incident. This includes CCTV footage, witness statements and forensic evidence.
The Lord Advocate has told the police that an incident must be investigated as a hate crime if it is perceived, by the victim or any other person, to be aggravated by prejudice.
This means that your perceptions are important. When you report a hate crime, tell the police that you believe it was motivated by prejudice and why you think that is the case. This could be about the language used at the time, things you have heard the suspects say in the past or that certain groups are being singled out in your street / building, etc.
Question: Can I report a hate crime anonymously?
Answer: Yes. you can report anonymously using the online hate crime reporting form on the Police Scotland Website https://www.scotland.police.uk/secureforms/hate-crime/ or by calling Crime Stoppers on 0800 555 111, or by contacting a Third Party Reporting Centre – http://www.scotland.police.uk/contact-us/hate-crime-and-third-party-reporting/third-party-reporting-centres.
Question: What is Third Party Reporting?
Answer: Many people, for various reasons, are reluctant to report crime directly to the police. Victims and witnesses can report, without contacting the police directly, through a Third Party Reporting Centre. This is a safe and supportive space to discuss your complaint. If you want to report the incident to the police, the Third Party Reporting Centre can do this on your behalf. The police will act on this as if they have received the report directly from you.
Question: Will the police come to my home if I report a hate crime?
Answer: The police do not have to come to your home if you do not want them to. You can ask to meet with the police somewhere other than your home or a police office, for example in a café, a friend’s home, the local housing office, a library or somewhere else that you feel comfortable.
You can also request that non-uniformed officers meet with you so that it is not obvious that you are speaking to police officers.
Question: What happens after I make a report to the police?
Answer: The police carry out an initial crime investigation. If they believe they have enough evidence to support a prosecution they submit a report to the local Procurator Fiscal. The Procurator Fiscal (PF or Fiscal) works for the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service (COPFS) that is responsible for prosecuting crime in Scotland.
The Procurator Fiscal (PF) considers the police report and decides if there is sufficient evidence to proceed. If there is, the Procurator Fiscal will then decide what, if any, action it is appropriate to take.
Actions range from prosecution in court, direct measures such as warnings, fiscal fines, compensation offers and social work diversion.
The Procurator Fiscal can also decide to take no action. When this happens the victim can ask for an explanation of the decision.
If court proceedings are considered to be appropriate, the Procurator Fiscal will decide which court these should be taken in. This decision will depend on the nature of the offence, the sentencing powers of the respective courts and whether the accused has a criminal record.
If the crime has been committed by a child, but was reported to the Fiscal, the case can be referred to the Scottish Children’s Reporter (SCRA).
To find out what happens after you have reported the incident where the accused is over 16, click here http://www.victimsofcrimeinscotland.org.uk/the-justice-process/step-by-step-guide-to-the-justice-process/crime-committed-by-an-adult-over-16/
To find out what happens after you have reported the incident where the accused is under 16, click here http://www.victimsofcrimeinscotland.org.uk/the-justice-process/step-by-step-guide-to-the-justice-process/crime-committed-by-a-young-person-under-16/
Question: Will I have to go to court?
Answer: You may have to attend court if the Procurator Fiscal considers that there is sufficient evidence, that court proceedings are appropriate and the accused pleads not guilty. In many cases, however, this will not be necessary. If you do have to go to court, you can get help with the process through the Victim Information and Advice service (VIA).
Question: What does the Procurator Fiscal say about hate crime?
Answer: The Procurator Fiscal’s stance on hate crime is the same as the government and other agencies. The Fiscal states “Our zero tolerance prosecution policy for hate crimes motivated by prejudice sends a clear message that there is no room for bigotry and intolerance. Hate crime is investigated and prosecuted rigorously…”
Question: Does hate crime legislation apply to the internet?
Answer: Yes – internet postings are subject to hate crime legislation and there have been a number of successful prosecutions in Scotland for racist and sectarian postings on social media such as Facebook and internet forums.
Question: Can a hate crime be committed with words alone?
Answer: The use of bigoted and prejudiced language does not in itself violate hate crime laws. However if the language is used in a manner that could reasonably be said to cause fear and alarm, for example when a threat of violence is expressed, then hate crime legislation would apply.
Similarly, in an incident where property is damaged and prejudiced or bigoted language is used, for example in graffiti, then hate crime legislation would apply.
Question: Why Do We Have Hate Crime Laws?
Answer: The Scottish Government Working Group on Hate Crime gives 3 reasons for having hate crime legislation.
- Research consistently shows that some social groups are proportionately more often victims of harassment and crime and that much of this is motivated by prejudice against those groups
- Hate crimes can cause more psychological damage to a victim than crimes that are not motivated by hatred, because the victim’s core identity is being attacked. This personalises the crime and can cause the victim a greater amount of distress.
- Hate crime is socially divisive. Such crimes need to be particularly condemned in order to avoid a situation in which the relevant group feels victimised as a group, with members in constant fear of attack. Prejudice against groups can lead to a number of consequences, ranging from fear of crime and inability to participate in normal social activities to paranoia and vigilantism
Question: Why do hate crimes occur?
Answer: Hate crimes often occur as a result of prejudice and ignorance. A lack of understanding about differences among people, and their traditions, contributes to fear and intolerance. Left unaddressed, these sentiments can lead to acts of intimidation and hate-motivated violence.
Question: How often do hate crimes occur?
Answer: It’s difficult to be really accurate about how frequently hate crimes occur. This is because the most reliable source of publicly available statistics is the number of incidents reported to the police. According to these statistics, the police recorded 51 hate incidents per week in Glasgow in 2012/13. However, this does not give a true picture of the number of incidents because we know that hate crimes are among some of the most underreported crimes. The number of incidents recorded by the police is only the tip of the iceberg. You can find the official statistics in the Resources section.