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Lack of ‘coherent’ hate crime strategy impacting police response

Ninian Reid via Flickr

Lack of ‘coherent’ hate crime strategy impacting police response

A lack of training and problems with data collection is affecting Police Scotland’s ability to respond to hate crime, a new report has found.

HM Inspectorate of Constabulary in Scotland (HMICS) said the lack of an overall strategy on hate crime was undermining confidence among victims of hate crime when reporting incidents.

In 2019-20, Police Scotland recorded 6,448 hate crimes and 6,745 hate incidents, but under-reporting is considered to be a significant issue.

A separate survey conducted by HMICS in autumn 2020 found less than a third of respondents who had experienced a hate crime or incident had reported it, and of those who had, 46 per cent were not confident the complaint had been taken seriously.

Chief Inspector of Constabulary in Scotland Gill Imery said: “Officers working in the safer communities roles at local and national level have developed effective partnerships and a deep knowledge of diversity issues. However, there is no coherent overall strategy that underpins efforts to prevent and detect hate crime.

“There needs to be a consistent level of response and support for victims so they have the confidence required to report hate incidents, particularly if it is not the first time they have been subjected to such behaviour.”

Other issues by HMICS included shortcomings in the support for police officers subject to hate crime while on duty, difficulties in identifying repeat reports and repeat victims, and the failure of Police Scotland IT systems which make it harder to identify trends in hate crime.

It has recommended that Police Scotland should consider establishing a dedicated unit for hate crime, as well as review document to ensure there is clear and accessible guidance for officers.

Police Scotland has said it will seek to implement the recommendations. On under-reporting specifically, it urged people to come forward if they have experience of witnessed a hate crime. 

Chief Superintendent Linda Jones said: “Every report is taken seriously. We listen to victims and investigate the circumstances thoroughly and professionally.

“We strive to improve how we represent, reflect and serve all our communities. This is vital to maintain and build the strong relationship of trust policing has with the public and ensure people feel able to report hate crime so offenders can be held to account.

“We are therefore not complacent and are working hard to better understand the full scale of the problem and implement the HMICS recommendations.”

The thematic inspection was carried out before the passage of the controversial Hate Crime and Public Order (Scotland) Act 2021, the provisions of which have not yet been enacted.

The Law Society of Scotland warned before its passage that there was a “lack of clarity” in the bill, while the trade union representing officers, the Scottish Police Federation, expressed concern that the new laws would be "too vague to be implemented".

But the Scottish Government said the Act sought to modernise and provide clarity on hate crime law, with amendments on the freedom of expression provisions of the bill made at stage three.

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