Campaign tackles hate crime head-on

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SPEAK Up Against Hate Crime — that’s the message from the latest campaign from Holyrood.

The initiative encourages anyone who experiences or witnesses a hate crime — recognised as any kind of abuse motivated by prejudice or discrimination — to report the incident to the police. The message is: no incident is too small to report, and doing so could prevent the same thing from happening again.

Superintendent Gavin Phillip said: “Police Scotland recognises the impact hate crime can have on individuals, families and communities and will treat each case sensitively, using specialist officers and services were appropriate.”

Statistics show that there were more than 4,000 racially aggravated hate crimes in 2012-13 — there was also a significant rise in incidents related to religion, disability and sexual orientation.

Online bullying is included, as well as habitual taunting, vandalism or physical violence.

Backing the campaign is Colin MacFarlane, director of Stonewall Scotland, who was attacked in 2009. He explained: “When a guy 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 realised I was being attacked, with him kicking me and hurling homophobic abuse.

“When you’re the victim of a hate crime, it’s common to question ‘did I do something to deserve this?’ With support from my family, friends and the police, I started to feel reassured that this was no way my fault. It’s vital that people speak out about these crimes.”

To report a crime dial 101 (or 999 in an emergency), visit a police station or complete a hate crime reporting form online — you can also ask a third party organisation to contact the police for you.