Thorley Stephenson, Edinburgh Law Firm

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Police documentation of "hate events" that are not crimes is dangerous

Anyone who has experienced a housebreak will understand how traumatic the event can be. Locks can be changed, and insurance plans can be used, but it might take time and effort to help victims regain their confidence. I wonder if knowing that burglars are highly unlikely to be apprehended makes people feel even more uneasy following a break-in.

According to statistics released by the Scottish Government, just 31.5% of housebreakings were resolved by Police Scotland in 2020–21. The majority of victims had to be content with giving their insurance little more than a crime number. 

The statistics throughout the spectrum of crimes are depressing to read. Only 56.3% of offences are solved by the police. Less than two-thirds of sex crime reports result in charges.

However, despite the low number of crimes being solved, there is a large increase in recorded incidents where no laws were broken.

More than twice as many "malice and ill will" incidents—928 total—were reported to Police Scotland in 2021 as in 2017. People who have followed the law are now listed in a police database since these alleged "hate events" have been reported. 

The CEO of Index on Censorship, Ruth Smeeth, warns that the rise in reporting non-criminal "hate incidents" runs the risk of fostering a legal grey area where some subjects are avoided because of the potential of police involvement.

If recent numbers are any indication, Police Scotland's officers have more than enough work to do. It's time for them to quit getting involved in situations where no crime has occurred.

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