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How to report a hate incident or hate crime

This advice applies to Scotland

This information applies to Scotland only.

Hate incidents are any events where you or another person perceive the event to be motivated by prejudice towards a particular group who are protected from such prejudice being directed at them.

Hate crime is any offence that has been aggravated by prejudice against a protected group.

Everyone has the right to live safely and without fear. You can report a hate incident straight to the police at www.scotland.police.uk.

Read this page to find out how you can report a hate incident or crime and what to do if you have problems reporting an incident.

How to report a hate incident or hate crime

If you’ve experienced, or know someone who has experienced, or witnessed a hate incident or hate crime you can report it to the police.

You can contact the police directly, or you can use an online form on the Police Scotland website at www.scotland.police.uk. There may also be local organisations who can help you report the incident or crime.

Reporting to Police Scotland

You can report a hate incident or crime online on the Police Scotland website. A reporting form is available for non-urgent hate crime. Once you’ve filled in the form on the website, it’s sent directly to the police force.

It’s important to give as many details as possible. This helps the police deal with your case more effectively. If you want the police to investigate the incident, you need to provide your contact details and the best time to contact you.

If you are reporting the incident on behalf of someone else this is called Third Party Reporting and you will be asked to declare this on the form.

If you are worried about the police contacting you at home you can ask the police to contact you through someone you trust and who has agreed to provide their details. You still need to provide your contact details as well.

If you need help and support with reporting the incident, you can contact a Citizens Advice Bureau - where to get advice.

Useful information to include in your form if you were attacked or witnessed a hate incident

The reporting forms tell you what information you need to give the police when reporting the hate  crime. Here are some additional tips on useful information to include :

  • how you were attacked
  • if you know it, the identity of the attacker and where s/he lives or, alternatively, what the attacker looked like and/or what they were wearing
  • what, if anything, was said by the attacker, particularly anything insulting about you
  • why else you regard the attack as having been prejudiced against you
  • if you have been attacked before, when and by whom
  • where the attack was made
  • when the attack was made (date and time of day or night)
  • the nature of any injuries sustained. It might be helpful to obtain medical evidence
  • if anyone else was attacked
  • the names and addresses of any witnesses.

When describing the offender it’s useful to give general information such as age, height, build, gender, ethnicity and clothing. Also try to remember any particular features such as:

  • hair colour
  • glasses
  • jewellery or piercing
  • tattoos
  • facial hair
  • a particular accent
  • teeth
  • scars
  • birth marks.

If a vehicle was involved, in addition to the make, model and colour, you may have noticed if it had stickers, sun shades or child car seats. Did the car look old or new? Did it have any other marks or signs of damage?

If the incident involved damage to property, you should describe the damage or loss as well as the costs involved if possible. You can also take photos of the damage to show the police.

Reporting the incident directly to the police

You should report a serious incident directly to the police by visiting your local police station or by phone. There is a map and listings of all the local police offices in Scotland on the website of Scottish Police at www.scotland.police.uk.

When you report the incident you should ask for the incident reference number. This will help you in any further dealings with the police.

If you don’t want to report the incident, you can ask someone else to phone the police on your behalf such as a friend or relative. This is called Third Party Reporting. You can also contact a Citizens Advice Bureau to help you phone the police - where to get advice.

If you have difficulty with English

If you have difficulty speaking or understanding English, you may find it helpful to have an interpreter with you. You can ask the police to provide an interpreter and the police must provide you with one to help you understand the criminal investigation. If the police refuse to provide an interpreter or you are not happy with the way the service was provided, you can make a complaint.

To report an incident to the police by phone, call 101 or Textphone 18001 101. If it’s an emergency you should call 999.

If you need help and advice with reporting an incident or crime, you can contact a Citizens Advice Bureau - where to get advice.

Problems reporting a hate incident or hate crime

Police report is sent to the Procurator Fiscal

You might be convinced that the behaviour you want to report to the police is definitely a hate incident based on prejudice and motivated by ill-will. In the course of dealing with your complaint you may be concerned that the police are not taking seriously your assessment of the incident as a hate incident.

You should be aware that the police have to pass your report to the Procurator Fiscal who decides if an offence has been committed. Their report should contain your description of the incident and the fact that you believe it was hate incident in which a crime was committed. If your case goes to court you will have to provide evidence to show why you think the behaviour was hate crime. At the stage of reporting the incident you can provide any evidence you have of the action being motivated by prejudice and/or ill-will. Such evidence might be, for example, what the alleged offender said to you.

You can make a complaint

If you are very unhappy with the way the police handled the situation when you were trying to report hate crime or a hate incident you can make a complaint. In some cases you might feel you were discriminated against because of the type of report you were making. You can complain about:

  • staff behaviour
  • quality of service.

There is a standard online complaints form that you can use to make your complaint. You may also find it helpful to check what guidance is available about how to make the complaint. You can link to the form here and follow the links on the Police Scotland website for the guidance.

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