Scotland politics

Police Scotland chief says hate crime 'absolute priority'

A woman holding up crossed arms in defensive pose Image copyright Thinkstock
Image caption Phil Gormley said hate crime took many forms and had a significant impact on its victims

Scotland's top police officer has said tackling hate crime is an "absolute priority" for his force.

Speaking at the start of Hate Crime Awareness Week, Phil Gormley said he was determined to eradicate all forms of hatred in Scotland.

A new network of LGBTI liaison officers has been established in a bid to improve the reporting of hate crimes.

About 90 officers have been trained to work with the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Intersex community.

The chief constable's comments come after a recent report called for a stronger approach to tackling hate crime in Scotland.

It found the issue was far worse than official figures suggested.

'Escalating behaviour'

Mr Gormley called on all victims of hate crime to report every incident to police.

He said: "Tackling all forms of hate crime remains an absolute priority for Police Scotland.

"Every incident has a significant impact on the victim, their family and wider communities. Police Scotland continues to work closely with our criminal justice partners to do everything in our power to protect all communities and eradicate all forms of hatred."

Mr Gormley said hate crime manifested itself in many different ways - through violence, offensive graffiti and vandalism as well as intimidation and harassment in person and online.

He said: "All of this behaviour is completely unacceptable, and whether criminal or not, Police Scotland wants to know about in order to avoid behaviour escalating and being unchallenged."

Image caption Cathleen Lauder, a victim of hate crime, said the specially trained officers would make a difference

Mr Gormley said the force could not tackle the issue alone and urged victims to either come forward to officers or to partner agencies, which included charities and community groups.

He detailed a training programme where 90 officers from the force had received specialist training from LGBTI charity the Equality Network as well as an initiative involving the I Am Me charity, which provides support for disabled people.

He said: "We recognise that hate crime often goes unreported, and there are many reasons why people don't come forward and raise their concerns, but we must work together to ensure hate crime has no place in our communities."

'Improve confidence'

Cathleen Lauder, who grew up with a stammer and is transgender, told BBC Scotland she was regularly a target for abuse.

"There's always going to be bad days, when you want to to cry and hide away but you've just got to get on, get out there and live," she said.

She said the specially trained officers will improve the experience for those reporting abuse and make people more likely to come forward.

Tim Hopkins, director of the Equality Network said the training initiative by Police Scotland would improve confidence among the LGBTI community if they were victims of hate crime.

He said: "It's great to see that Police Scotland have now set up a national network of liaison officers.

"This will help LGBTI people have the confidence to report hate incidents to the police, and will mean that there should always be a police officer they can make contact with who has an understanding of LGBTI issues."

An independent review published last month and commissioned by the Scottish government, said that tackling hate crime should be "a priority concern for the whole of society".

It cited figures showing a 49% rise in football-related hate crime in the past year and also said that racist hate crimes were the most commonly reported form of hate crime.

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