Thursday, February 10, 2011

Report published by Holyrood Committee says justice system may be prejudiced against Catholics, confirms higher numbers in Scots jails

Little mentioned report for MSPs confirms Scottish Justice system is anti-catholic A REPORT commissioned & subsequently published by the Scottish Parliament's Petitions Committee in response to a public petition, has endorsed the view of the Catholic Church that Scotland’s justice system is still prejudiced against Catholics. Petition PE1073, by Mr Tom Minogue, calls for the Scottish Parliament to investigate and establish the reasons for the apparently disproportionate number of Catholics in Scottish prisons. Written submissions for Petition PE1073 can be found HERE

The research, undertaken by Dr Susan Wiltshire of Glasgow University for the Petitions Committee, can be viewed online or downloaded from Scottish Law Reporter, here : Offender Demographics and Sentencing Patterns in Scotland and the UK: Research commissioned by the Public Petitions Committee in consideration of PE1073 (203KB pdf)

Dr Wiltshire’s report confirmed there are a disproportionate number of Catholics in Scottish jails, concluding : “There is certainly no available research on sentencers’ attitudes to sentencing faith groups in Scotland, however, the statistics do confirm that there are a disproportionate number of Catholics in Scottish jails, which is especially pronounced in the west of Scotland, and further that this disproportionality is evident in long term sentence length.”

Here follows a report from the Mail on Sunday newspaper, Feb 06 2011

Church claims justice system is too harsh on Catholics

THE Catholic Church is demanding action from Scottish ministers after an academic endorsed its long-held view that followers still endure prejudice in Scotland.

A report commissioned by an influential Scottish parliament committee suggested there could be prejudice within the justice system - which may account for the disproportionate number of Catholics serving jail terms.

The research paper was written by Dr Susan Wiltshire of Glasgow University for Holyrood's public petitions committee.

The report's findings will be discussed by MSPs after May's Holyrood election.

Dr Wiltshire, an expert in criminal justice, was commissioned to produce the report after a petition submitted four years ago by Tom Minogue. The retired engineer from Dunfermline, Fife, was concerned about the disproportionate number of Catholics in Scottish jails. At that time, Catholics made up 13 per cent of the Scots population and 26 per cent of prisoners.

Some committee members have pointed out that Catholics tend to be over-represented in deprived areas with high crime rates. Data from the 2001 Census showed that Catholics were the largest religious group in Scotland's poorest neighbourhoods, with 19 per cent living in the 10 per cent most deprived areas, compared with 8 per cent of Church of Scotland members.

Dr Wiltshire said in her report: "The question should shift from asking why Catholics are disproportionately represented in Scottish jails to why so many Catholics continue to live in areas of deprivation in Scotland."

She added: "Discriminatory and prejudiced attitudes continue to feature in Scots society. It might be expected that such attitudes could manifest in the criminal justice system, accounting in part for disproportionality."

Catholic Church spokesman Peter Kearney said the problem was rooted in past Irish immigration.

He pointed out that Irish migrants who went to the US in the 1840s and 1850s achieved occupational and economic parity in 1901.

But he added: "In Scotland, Irish immigrants achieved parity in 2001. It took another 100 years in this small country, where some, including most politicians, have insisted for years that we don't have a problem."

Last December, only three months after the Pope visited Scotland, Cardinal Keith O'Brien, head of the country's Catholics, warned that sectarianism was still limiting religious expression here.

A Scottish Government spokesman said: "While we have a range of initiatives to tackle sectarianism,we are also working to support the whole of society and tackle poverty."

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