Lock em’up - Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill happy over sectarian hate law progress. ANTI-SECTARIAN legislation brought in by the Scottish Government to tackle incidents of sectarian songs & religious hate crimes connected with football matches “is working well”, says Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill today on the first anniversary of the Offensive Behaviour at Football and Threatening Communications (Scotland) Act 2012, passed by the Scottish Parliament during December 2011 after an arduous consideration by MSPs.
Lord Advocate Frank Mulholland QC joined the Justice Secretary in praising the SNP’s hate crime effort, saying the legislation is being used to good effect by police and prosecutors The Lord Advocate claimed that 89% of cases reported to the Crown Office have been prosecuted, with an 83% conviction rate yet offered no breakdown of the figures or detail to substantiate his claims.
Both the Scottish Government & Crown Office & Procurator Fiscal Service (COPFS) have so far refused to answer questions relating to the figures including queries over the religious denomination of those arrested and the specific nature of the crimes, stating that the Crown Office were still collecting the data for analysis. The Justice Secretary claimed : “Figures from the first full year of the act are still being collated and analysed and will be published after the end of the football season.”
However, while the Crown Office may still be “collating data”, leaks to the media have suggested the as yet unreleased figures contain a significant rise in the numbers of Catholics being arrested for what appear to be incidents previously considered to be minor in nature.
This has lead to claims the Crown Office has embarked on an operation to balance up the statistics after earlier reports revealed Crown Office data containing a disproportionately high arrest & conviction rate for Catholics was destroyed on orders of Scottish Government law officers to prevent it being considered by the Scottish Parliament during its investigation of the Offensive Behaviour at Football and Threatening Communications (Scotland) Bill
Scottish Government Press Release :Offensive Behaviour Act first anniversary
Legislation designed to tackle sectarian behaviour at football matches is working well, Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill said today. The Scottish Government brought in the Offensive Behaviour and Threatening Communications (Scotland) Act a year ago today to give police and prosecutors additional powers to crack down on sectarian songs and abuse at and around football matches and threats posted on the internet or through the mail.
The Lord Advocate, Frank Mulholland QC, has said that the legislation is being used to good effect by police and prosecutors. So far 89 per cent of the cases reported to the Crown Office have been prosecuted, and the conviction rate stands at 83 per cent. Figures from the first full year of the act are still being collated and analysed and will be published after the end of the football season.
The Scottish Government is currently commissioning an independent evaluation of the legislation, which will help meet our statutory requirement to inform parliament on the operation of the act. We have invited six research organisations to tender for this work. The evaluation will provide a detailed picture of the impact and effectiveness of the legislation, examining how the new powers have been used on the ground, including whether there have been any barriers to successful implementation of the legislation. It will also explore the impact the legislation has had on the attitudes and behaviour of Scottish football fans.
Mr MacAskill said: “The charge and conviction rates for people arrested under this legislation show that it is working well. This legislation was introduced in response to Scotland’s police and prosecutors, who told us they needed greater powers to take a hard line on sectarianism associated with football.”
He continued : “We have made clear that bigotry and religious hatred have no place in modern Scotland and we will stamp out on it wherever and whenever it occurs. The majority of Scots - 91 per cent - supported tougher action to tackle the problem. The overwhelming majority of football fans are law abiding and want to enjoy the friendly rivalry that is part of any game without this being marred by the actions of a mindless minority. We are under no illusions – the problem of sectarianism isn’t just a football issue. That is why we are spending £9 million over the next three years on a range of projects to tackle sectarianism across society.”