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Racist Incidents Recorded by the Police in Scotland, 2004-05 to 2008-09

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2. Commentary

2.1 Incidents recorded by the police, by police force area

The total number of incidents recorded by the police in Scotland fell by two per cent between 2007-08 to 2008-09 (from 5,244 to 5,123). The number of crimes recorded decreased from 6,673 crimes in 2007-08 to 6,590 crimes in 2008-09, which equates to a decrease of one per cent. ( Table 1).

Three forces showed a year on year increase in the number of racist incidents and crimes recorded from 2007-08 to 2008-09 (Central, Dumfries & Galloway and Grampian). All other police forces showed a decrease between 2007-08 and 2008-09.

The number of incidents, as a rate per 10,000 local population, is generally much higher in urban areas (Aberdeen, Dundee, Edinburgh and Glasgow) than the in more rural areas ( Table 2).

Over the period 2004-05 to 2008-09, racist incidents in Scotland have increased by 13 per cent. There could be a number of reasons for this. Forces' work with a range of victim support agencies to encourage reporting may be one reason for this increase. Other factors which could have impacted on the numbers are an increasing public intolerance of such behaviour, and increased public confidence that reporting such incidents is worthwhile. There have also been improvements in data collection, and the introduction of centralised call centres has encouraged the reporting of all incidents. It should be noted however that the number of racist incidents recorded fell in the latest period.

2.2 Detail of the incidents

Various information was recorded in relation to the incident, such as the location of where the incident took place, the date and time of the incident, and whether a crime was recorded as part of the incident.

In 2008-09, around 98 per cent of incidents reported resulted in one or more crimes being recorded ( Table 1).

As Table 3 shows, the most common location for an incident in 2008-09 was the street (32 per cent), a dwelling house (17 per cent) and in a shop (14 per cent). These three locations therefore accounted for 64 per cent of all racist incidents in 2008-09, compared with around 70 per cent for these three locations in 2007-08.

Generally, most incidents were recorded during the winter months (Chart 2 and Table 4). The most common days on which an incident occurred were Friday and Saturday in all five years covered by the publication (Chart 3 and Table 5) with more incidents generally occurring between the hours of 18:00 to midnight.

Approximately 73 per cent of incidents in 2008-09 were reported to the police by the victim, which is a decrease from 76 per cent in 2007-08. Other reporters included witnesses of the incident, the police and agencies reporting on behalf of the victim ( Table 6).

Chart 2 Incidents by financial year and quarter, 2004-05 to 2008-09

Chart 2 Incidents by financial year and quarter, 2004-05 to 2008-09

Chart 3 Incidents by weekday and time, 2004-05 to 2008-09

Chart 3 Incidents by weekday and time, 2004-05 to 2008-09

2.3 Crimes recorded resulting from the incidents

The most frequently recorded crime/offence in 2008-09 was racially aggravated conduct, which accounted for 58 per cent of all racist related crimes recorded. This is followed by breach of the peace (17 per cent), minor assault (11 per cent), fire-raising/vandalism (6 per cent), and then racially aggravated harassment (three per cent). In each year, these five crimes account for 95 per cent of all crimes and offences recorded resulting from a racist incident ( Table 7a). Definitions of racially aggravated conduct and racially aggravated harassment are included in paragraph 3.6.

Sixty-three per cent of all racist crimes recorded in 2008-09 were cleared-up ( Table 7b). The clear-up rate differs depending on the crime, with approximately 86 per cent of crimes included in the 'other crimes' group being cleared-up (this group includes handling offensive weapons, drug crimes and resisting arrest). This compares with a clear-up rate of 35 per cent for those crimes contained within fire-raising, vandalism etc.

2.4 Victims of racist incidents

In 2008-09, around 48 per cent of victims where ethnic origin was known, were of Asian origin (that is, Indian, Pakistani, Bangladeshi or other Asian), with the majority being Pakistani ( Table 8) (where ethnic origin is known). The largest minority ethnic group in the Scottish population is Pakistani, based on the 2001 census figures (Section 3, part 3.9).

The percentage of male victims in 2008-09 has remained more or less unchanged at around 76 per cent of all victims where gender was known. In 2008-09, there were an additional 295 victims whose age and/or gender were not recorded and these were not included when calculating the above percentage ( Table 10).

When recording whether the victim had reported previous incidents within the previous two years to the police, not all forces were able to supply the number of incidents previously reported. These have been described as 'unknown' in the data ( Table 11). In 2008-09, around 75 per cent of victims reporting an incident were doing so for the first time. 14 per cent of victims had made one or two previous reports. These percentages are based on those incidents for which previous incident information is known.

2.5 Perpetrators of racist incidents

This information is only fully available where the incident has been fully resolved, and any crime involved has been detected. For those incidents where this information was available, in each year, approximately 96 per cent of perpetrators were of white origin ( Table 12).

In 2008-09, around 99 per cent of perpetrators of racist incidents had English as their main language ( Table 13) (where language was known).

Around 46 per cent of perpetrators in 2008-09 were aged 20 or under. Around 23 per cent were under the age of 16, making them eligible for referral to the Scottish Children's Reporter Administration ( SCRA) rather than the Procurator Fiscal ( Table 14). In 2008-09, there were an additional 548 perpetrators whose age and/or gender were not recorded. These were not included when calculating the above percentages.

In 2008-09, 68 per cent of perpetrators were referred to the Procurator Fiscal or SCRA. No action was taken against 13 per cent of perpetrators ( Table 15).