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by Staff Reporter
10 April 2024
Online hate crime reports top 7,000 in first week of new law

Police Scotland have released figures covering 1 April - 7 April | Alamy

Online hate crime reports top 7,000 in first week of new law

The number of online reports of hate crimes in the first week of the new law coming into force exceeded 7,000, according to provisional figures published by Police Scotland.

Between 1 April and 7 April, the number of recorded hate crimes was 240 – higher than the total recorded during the same period in any of the preceding five years.

In addition, the force recorded 30 non-crime hate incidents, up from 18 for the same period last year.

The Scottish Government has said the figures prove how "vital" the new law is, but the Scottish Conservatives warn about the impact on an "overstretched police force". 

The Hate Crime and Public Order Act came into effect at the start of this month, creating new offences relating to the stirring up of hatred against communities with the protected characteristics of age, disability, religion, sexual orientation, transgender identity and variations in sex characteristics.

But there has been considerable confusion over what qualifies as a hate crime under the new law, with author JK Rowling last week challenging police to arrest her “if what I've written [on a Twitter thread] qualifies as an offence”.

Police Scotland confirmed Rowling’s posts, in which she labelled a number of high-profile trans women men, were not criminal.

Figures released by Police Scotland reveal that in the first week of April, 7,152 online reports were made of alleged hate crimes.

In addition, there were 430 police incidents in which officers added a hate crime tag, and 34 telephone calls and 141 emails relating to hate crimes.

The 240 recorded hate crimes during the single week is more than double the 99 recorded during the same period last year.

Half of the recorded hate crimes involved race-related hate, while 42 related to sexual orientation, 38 to disability, and 21 each for age and religion. There were eight hate crimes recorded which related to transgender identity and none related to variations in sex characteristics.

Scotland's justice secretary Angela Constance said: "These statistics show that of the significant number of online hate crime reports made to Police Scotland since 1 April, almost half came in on the day the new legislation commenced, with the number of daily complaints falling by 90 per cent within the first week.

"These comparison statistics show how vital tackling hate crime is and how it is not a new issue for Scotland’s police and justice system."

The Police Scotland figures also revealed one in five officers are yet to complete training on the new law.

There were 16 complaints made in relation to the act.

Scottish Tory justice spokesperson Sharon Dowey, whose party opposed the legislation, said: "On top of the deluge of complaints that Police Scotland are having to field every day, the fact that 240 in a week were deemed to have been crimes just adds to the intolerable strain on officers who have already been forced to not investigate certain other crimes due to SNP cuts.

“The Scottish Police Federation have warned that this is unsustainable, so Humza Yousaf should admit he’s got it badly wrong and bin this disastrous law.”

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