Hate Crime in Scotland

It was a normal Thursday night. I had just finished work and was making my way home. Walking past Central Station I saw a group of guys loitering outside the entrance. As I walked past I heard one of them shout “poof” towards me then the group of guys started to laugh. I continued to walk on, but the incident left me feeling confused. Obviously I wasn’t hurt by the comment, after all it was true, but it left me wondering “what was the point?” The guy merely stated the obvious and left it at that. Did he say it to look tough in front of his friends? Did he say it to take me down a peg or two? His comment certainly wasn’t the precursor to a physical altercation. So why bother? Perhaps I’ll never know.

 

The incident didn’t really bother me but it did made me surprised by my reaction to it. I’ve always considered myself to be an out and VERY proud gay man, willing to stand up for what is right and what is wrong and defend myself and my community against ignorance and closed mindedness. And yet, I did nothing. Was it that I was alone and, had the incident become physical, I wouldn’t have stood a chance in hell of fighting them off? Or was it that the whole thing was so insignificant and pointless that it didn’t warrant a response? Was it a hate crime? After all, I was singled out because of my sexuality and, if I’m honest, a little humiliated by the whole thing. I wanted to know more so I headed to the Police Scotland website for more details. Police Scotland define a hate crime as;

 

…a crime perceived as being motivated by malice or ill will towards a particular social group on the basis of their actual or presumed sexual orientation, transgender identity, disability, race or religion.”

 

It was the first part of this description that I couldn’t get my head around; “a crime”. In this instance I felt that it wasn’t what would be considered “a crime” and did not warrant police involvement. But it got me thinking, at what point do we as a community draw the line in ignoring this kind of casual homophobia? Furthermore, to what extent is sexual orientation and transgender identity aggravated hate crime a problem in Scotland?

hate-crime

According to the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service (COPFS) sexual orientation aggravated hate crime is the second most common type of hate crime in Scotland. The number of charges reported increased by 20% in 2015-16 to 1,020. With the exception of 2014-15, there have been year on year increases in charges reported since the legislation introducing this aggravation came into force in 2010.

In 2015-16, 30 charges were reported with an aggravation of prejudice relating to transgender identity. This is the highest number of charges reported since the legislation came into force, although the numbers remain very small.” (information obtained from www.news.scotland.gov.uk)

 

A 2015 study carried out by the Equality Network found that almost half of Scottish respondents had experienced or witnessed instances of prejudice or discrimination in the past month. This figure increased to 79% who witnessed or experienced discrimination in the past year, rising to 97% within their lifetimes. The study also found that transgender respondents were more likely to have experienced prejudice or discrimination. One out of seven respondents (14%) had experienced or witnessed an incident in the last 24 hours, almost half (45%) in the last week and 91% in the last year. .” (information obtained via www.westfm.co.uk)

 

Now I really don’t want to bamboozle everyone with statistics, facts and figures here but, for me, the three most important points to take away are;

 

  1. In Scotland sexual orientation aggravated hate crime is the second most common type of hate crime
  2. Trans people are more likely to have experienced prejudice or discrimination
  3. These figures are a mere sample of people who agreed to take part in the study, they do not include everyone within the LGBTQA+ community

 

In this instance, I can’t claim to have experienced hate crime, however, with stats like these it certainly highlights the increasing problem our community continues to face despite the significant legal and social equality we have here in Scotland. So as the out and proud gay man I claim to be I am now using my blog as a platform to encourage every member of our community to take a stand and make their voices heard. If you experience or witness prejudice or discrimination at work, on a night out with friends, in school, wherever, make a stand. Let’s unite as a community and show others that it is NOT ok to be singled out and discriminated against for your sexuality or trans identity. Let’s work with Police Scotland in their quest to eradicate Hate Crime in Scotland.

By Gordon Penman

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