POLICE will not prioritise hate crime reports over violent and sexual crimes, a senior police officer has said.

Concerns have been raised over the practicalities of investigating incidents recorded under the Hate Crime and Public Order (Scotland) Act after figures revealed 7152 complaints were made online in the week of its introduction on April 1.

However, of those, 240 were escalated and recorded as hate crimes.

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Despite the figures, Stewart Carle, the general secretary of the Association of Scottish Police Superintendents (ASPS), said the high number of reports will not divert attention away from serious crimes.

Speaking to The Herald newspaper, he said “threats to life and violence” would continue to be the force’s priority.

The newspaper asked Carle if there was concern about hate crime complaints distracting officers from investigating other crimes.

He responded: “No, the service will continue to prioritise and respond to serious crimes, particularly those involving violence or sexual assault.

“There is a clear prioritisation model that places crimes of violence and or threats to life at the highest level.

“Where there is an underlying crime, for example, assault, vandalism, breach of the peace been committed, and it’s assessed by further evidence to be motivated by hate against one of the protected characteristics, that will be reported as an aggravator to the original crime/offence.”

He went on to say that police attention was being diverted from the “burgeoning demands” of responding to mental health crises where other agencies have failed, and the high number of frontline officers required to attend court each week.

It comes as Justice Secretary Angela Constance said on Wednesday the high number of hate crimes recorded demonstrated why the legislation was necessary.

She said: “It is important when we look at the number of hate crimes recorded – 240 – by Police Scotland in one week alone, I think that demonstrates that this legislation is required and needed to protect marginalised and vulnerable communities most at risk of racial hatred and prejudice.”