The latest Hate Crime and Religously Aggravated Offending statistics as well as charges under the Offensive Behaviour Act were released late last week. All show an increase in religiously aggravated or sectarian offences since 2015/16.

There were 673 charges with a religious aggravation reported in 2016/17 which is a 14% rise since 2015/16, and also the highest number of chargess in four years. 

Charges under the Offensive Behaviour at Football and Threatening Communications (Scotland) Act 2012, showed a marked increase of 32%. There were 377 charges in 2016/17 compared to 286 charges in 2015/16. It was also noted that 140 of the charges in 2016/17 were associated with the Rangers v Hibernian Scottish Cup Final on 21st May 2016, which is said to explain the increase.

Hate Crimes in relation to race have remained the most reported, with 3,349 charges reported in 2016/17 but this is also the lowest number of reports since 2003/04.

Crimes which were aggravated by sexual orientation were the second most commonly reported, with an increase of 5% on the previous year.

Community safety minister Annabelle Ewing said: "Any crime motivated by prejudice is absolutely unacceptable.

"I remain concerned that hate crimes are under-reported and want to encourage anyone who has been subjected to such appalling acts to come forward to ensure that perpetrators can be dealt with appropriately.

"We will keep engaging with community leaders on how best to raise awareness of how such crimes can be reported and in the meantime.

"We will continue to work with Police Scotland and others to ensure a robust response to perpetrators."

She added: "The number of charges under the Offensive Behaviour Act demonstrate that we still have a problem with offensive and abusive behaviour related to football matches, and that we need legislation to give our police the powers required to ensure that football is not immune from the standards expected in the rest of society."

Lord Advocate James Wolffe QC said: "We continue to work with the police and support organisations to encourage people to come forward in relation to any hate crime.

"I would like to assure anyone affected by hate crime that they live in a society in which law enforcement agencies will ensure any report is treated with the utmost seriousness."

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