Religiously Aggravated Offending in Scotland, 2010-11

The Justice Committee of the Scottish Parliament is meeting next Tuesday to consider Stage 2 amendments to the (relatively controversial) Offensive Behaviour at Football and Threatening Communications (Scotland) Bill, nicknamed the ‘Football Act’, which will give Scottish police more powers to clamp down on football-related and other forms of sectarianism.

Coincidentally (or, there again, perhaps not), the Scottish Government published last Friday (18 November 2011) a report on Religiously Aggravated Offending in Scotland, 2010-11 by Ben Cavanagh and Angela Morgan (Scottish Government Social Research, ISBN 978-1-78045-515-0). This can be downloaded from:

The document provides a much fuller analysis of the 693 charges with a religious aggravation in Scotland in 2010-11, as defined by Section 74 of the Criminal Justice (Scotland) Act 2003, than was given in an earlier, more generic report on Scottish hate crime for that year, which was covered by BRIN at:

Headline findings from the new report include the following:

  • The number of charges with a religious aggravation in 2010-11 was 10% greater than in 2009-10 and the highest since 2006-07 (696)
  • 95% of the charges related to men
  • 93% of the accused were under 50, including 58% aged 16-30
  • Although charges with a religious aggravation occurred in 27 of Scotland’s 32 local authority areas, the majority of incidents took place in the west of the country, including 79% in the Strathclyde police force area and, within that, 51% in Glasgow city
  • 21% of offences were located in a main street, 19% in a police car/station, 13% on public transport, 13% in a football stadium, 12% in a residential area, 19% in a domestic dwelling, 5% in a pub or club, 2% in a hospital, and 7% elsewhere
  • 33% of charges were linked to football but only 5% to marches or parades
  • 58% of charges targeted Roman Catholicism, 37% Protestantism, 2% Judaism, and 2% Islam
  • 42% of victims were actually police officers, 33% members of the community, 23% members of the public, and 11% workers – the boundaries between these groups are somewhat ill-defined
  • 61% of charges were alcohol-related and 6% drugs-related
  • In 73% of cases the main charge to which a religious aggravation was added was for breach of the peace, in 14% for threatening or abusive behaviour, and in 6% for assault
  • Of the 693 charges, court proceedings were initiated for 587, with 85% of cases concluded so far resulting in convictions (albeit only a minority in a custodial sentence)

The report may be compared with an earlier analysis of data for the period January 2004 to June 2005 in Kathleen Doyle, Use of Section 74 of the Criminal Justice (Scotland) Act 2003 – Religiously Aggravated Reported Crime: an 18 Month Review (2006), which is still available at:

For a recent public opinion poll in Scotland on attitudes to sectarianism, conducted by TNS-BMRB in July and August 2011, see:

British Religion in Numbers: All the material published on this website is subject to copyright. We explain further here.

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