People who experience or witness hate crime are being encouraged to report all incidents as part of the new Speak Up Against Hate Crime campaign from the Scottish Government.
The positive act of reporting a hate crime can help to stop abuse motivated by prejudice or discrimination, work towards a positive outcome in the victim’s case and assist in preventing acts of hate happening to anyone else.
No crime or incident is too small to report. Every incident reported assists Police Scotland to identify areas of concern and deal with them to help prevent future crimes.
Superintendent Gavin Phillip, Police Scotland, said: “Police Scotland treat hate crime as a high priority and would urge any victim or witness to report it to allow us to thoroughly investigate and deal robustly with offenders. We recognise the impact hate crime can have on individuals, families and communities and will treat each case sensitively, using specialist officers and services where appropriate.
“Police Scotland also recognises that in some cases victims or witnesses of hate crime don’t feel confident reporting the matter directly to the Police and may be more comfortable reporting to a person or organisation they are familiar with. There are a variety of third-party organisations that work in partnership with Police Scotland to receive reports of hate crime on their behalf.”
Current statistics show that there were more than 4,000 racially aggravated charges of hate crime reported (4,012) in 2012-13 and that across incidents relating to religion, disability and sexual orientation there was a significant rise in reported crimes.
Incidents of hate crime can include habitual taunting, vandalism, online bullying and physical violence – but reporting it is making a big difference. The Scottish Government firmly believes that hate crime is unacceptable and that everyone deserves to be treated fairly, regardless of age, disability, gender, gender identity/reassignment, race, religion/belief or sexual orientation.
Colin MacFarlane, director of Stonewall Scotland
Colin is one of the most prominent advocates for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender rights in Scotland. A well-known face on the Scottish political scene, he was the victim of a violent attack motivated by homophobia.
In 2009 Colin was walking home from a dinner party when a man on a bike began following him. Despite trying to remove himself from the situation, Colin was viciously assaulted.
Colin said: “When a guy on a bike started following me, gut instinct told me there was going to be trouble. I calmly tried to get away, but then it all gets blurry.
“I woke up on the ground and thought ‘why am I down here?’ Then I remember a thump to my face and then another. I quickly realised I was being attacked – with him kicking my face and body and hurling homophobic abuse. I wasn’t scared at the time I just knew I had to get away. As he went to stamp on my head, I pushed him off.
“The next thing I remember is waking up in an ambulance. I’d apparently called the police as soon as I got away. I had broken ribs, lost a tooth, a split lip and a badly swollen face but the worst part was dealing with the emotional impact.
“When you’re the victim of a hate crime it’s common to question ‘why me?’ or ‘did I do something to deserve this?’. The first few weeks afterwards were very difficult emotionally but with support from my family, friends and the Police, I started to feel reassured that this really was a serious incident and in no way my fault. If I’d given in and become afraid to live my life, then he would have won. I wasn’t going to let that happen.
“The Police worked hard to help me and although I understand the guy was never found, the Police took the attack very seriously. Their message was that these crimes must be investigated.
“In my role as Director of Stonewall Scotland I know that people are still very uncomfortable reporting incidents of hate crime, but it’s vital that people speak out and share information about these crimes. That’s why Stonewall Scotland is working with the Scottish Government and Police Scotland to raise awareness that the Police are there to help and people should feel confident reporting.”
Suzanna Smith (not real name)
Suzanne works in the creative industries and has experienced hate crime as a result of local people targeting her use of a mobility scooter.
Suzanne said: “Often people will target you when you’re waiting at the bus stop – they know you’re trapped because you have somewhere to go and don’t want to miss your bus. That’s often when the horrible comments start.
“Once someone started making derogatory comments about my disabilities and shouting verbal abuse. You could see everyone else on the bus grimace in fear but nobody said anything – even the bus driver did nothing. It wasn’t until I got a hug from my friend that I finally felt safe again. I know that I stand out from the crowd because I use a mobility scooter but people think that makes it ok to abuse me.
“On my way home from work I pass several pubs and it’s really common for women to point out to their male friends that I have a disability.”
r To report incidents of hate crime you can: Phone the Police on dialling 101 or 999 in an emergency; Report in person at any Police office; Complete a Hate Crime Reporting Form online; Use a third-party reporting site