SAREC Position Paper: Supporting Victims of Hate Crime

Hate Crime, prejudice and the Bracadale Review:

Working with communities towards a Scotland without Prejudice

A SAREC Position Paper

The Scottish Alliance of Regional Equality Councils (SAREC) was formed in 2007 and is made up of the four Regional Equality Councils across Scotland: West of Scotland, Edinburgh & Lothian, Central Scotland and Grampian. 

The Bracadale Review

SAREC welcomed the review into Scotland’s hate crime legislation, undertaken by Lord Bracadale and his team in 2017.  It was widely recognised that hate crime legislation was not well understood by most individuals, communities or organisations, and had been updated in a piecemeal manner by different governments over a period of 26 years.  We recognise the significant amount of work that was done to engage with communities across Scotland on both hate crime legislation as well as the broader issues relating to hate crime. 

Although we do not support all the recommendations made in the review, we recognise the need for Scotland’s approach to prejudice and hate crime to be re-developed and modernised. 

Learning lessons of the past

In the recent past Scotland and the rest of the UK has gone through radical change in terms of equality legislation.  The 2010 Equality Act pulled together 116 pieces of existing legislation as well as bringing together the enforcement bodies that were aligned to the three previous main areas of legislation (tackling race, gender and disability discrimination).  It is widely recognised that the impact of the 2010 legislation has been diminished due to the much reduced powers of the Equality & Human Rights Commission compared to its predecessors.  Without enforcement and the evolution of case law the pace of change is very slow or non-existent. 

Legislation with enforcement

We recognise the significant differences between the new proposed hate crime legislation and the Equality Act, particularly given that the former is criminal legislation and the latter is civil.  However we believe it will be crucial for the success of any new legislation to have a concurrent strategy for enforcement.  A sustained and coordinated effort by the Government, Local Authorities, Health Boards, Public Bodies, Police, Third sector, local community partnerships will be required for the effective enforcement of new hate crime legislation.

Supporting communities to report hate crime

In 2017-18 the number of hate crimes reported to the procurator fiscal related to racism were 3249, while 642 crimes were aggravated by religion, 284 by disability, 1112 by sexual orientation, and 49 crimes in relation to transgender identity.   It is widely recognised that hate crime is largely under-reported, with some Police Scotland estimates putting the reported figure at 5% of the actual reported.  There is a need for a significant shift to be made in order for a significant proportion of hate crimes to be reported. 

Alongside the introduction of any new hate crime legislation, we believe that there should be an overhaul of the current system of Third Party Reporting.  In theory Third Party Reporting is a good concept but in practice it is very disappointing. Our constituent organisations are Third Party Reporting Centre and we are able to support this only because it is core to our work. We have had extensive conversations with other Third Party Reporting Centres and members of the public and our findings are:

1)  There is very low awareness of Third Party Reporting amongst the general population as well as likely victims.

2)  There are no resources provided to Third Party Reporting Centres.

3)  Third Party Reporting Centres must have access to a national pool of accessible services (interpreting, translation, BSL etc.) to support those using their services.

4)  No statistics are kept on reports received from Third Party Reporting Centres so it is difficult to say what the effectiveness of hate crime reporting is.

5)  The experience of Third Party Reporting Centres in dealing with the police must be improved.

Support to Victims

Crucial to the success of new legislation will be ensuring that communities understand the legislation, understand what constitutes a hate crime, how it can be reported, and what support is available before, during and after the legal process.  The latter point is crucial; without the knowledge that appropriate support is in place for those coming forward, to understand and navigate the system, to help tackle the barriers that have prevented individuals coming forward in the past, new legislation will have a limited impact.  Many people will need language support to go through the system, many will not understand the legal system, some will need advocacy support to help them put forward their arguments, and many more will need emotional support to mitigate against the profound impact of being a victim of hate crime. 

In 2017 SAREC published research into the experiences of those who have experienced hate crime in order to understand the kind of support services that they actually need. The Why Me? report that was released in March 2017 and can be found at:

A holistic approach towards a Scotland without Prejudice

SAREC agrees with the sentiment noted within Lord Bracadale’s review: that hate crime legislation is crucial because it puts a clear marker down as to what is acceptable in our society, and to the norms and values we want to embed within our increasingly diverse communities. 

We believe that core to making progress towards a Scotland without prejudice is to embed an approach in which communities are at the centre, not an afterthought.  Legislation without support to victims, without a strategic approach to enforcement and without an overhaul of the current reporting system, will be a wasted opportunity. 

We urge the Scottish Government and relevant ministers to take a holistic approach to updating hate crime legislation in Scotland, and to work with SAREC and other partners across Scotland to do this.  Specifically we call for:

  • Recognition of the need for, and investment in, specialist support for victims of prejudice and hate crime
  • An overhaul of the current Third Party Reporting system for hate crime
  • An investment in reporting methods that are co-designed by communities, e.g. a national helpline, app service

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