Figures released today by the Scottish Government have shown that Catholics are over 4 times more likely to be the victim of a hate crime in Scotland. The report into Section 74 Religiously Aggravated Offences covers the period 2010-2011. While the report and the statistics contained within it need to be analysed at length some initial thoughts are possible.
It confirms the trend established when the previous administration released the first batch of Section 74 statistics, that Catholics are overwhelmingly more likely to be targeted in hate crimes than any other group in Scotland. These hate crimes took place throughout Scotland, in 27 out of 32 local authorities areas. It also show that only 5% related to marches.
Exactly one third were related to football. This represents a jump on previous figures and is not surprising given the behaviour of the police at football matches over the last 12 months. Of those taking place inside stadiums most offences (52%) took place at Celtic Park. Other stadiums listed are Ibrox (27%), Hampden (7%), Easter Road (4%) and Pittodrie (3%). It does seem astonishing that Tynecastle is not included given the numerous incidents that have occurred there over the last 12 months. Tynecastle must be included in the Other section which only accounts for (7%) but this still seems odd. Also it is not recorded whether those arrested in these stadiums were in the home section or the away section. This is incredible and makes it impossible to know who the perpetrators are and who the victims are in such circumstances.
These figures also seem notably at odds with the recent Scottish Government report into Football Banning Orders. This report showed that Rangers had received more FBO’s than any other club, although only slightly ahead of Celtic (26-21). Perhaps this points to the fact that many arrested inside certain stadiums are not supporters of that team? Interestingly in the FBO’s government report the other teams listed are Hibs, Aberdeen and Dundee Utd. Again no mention of Hearts.
Let us not forget the ‘victims’, the report tells us that ‘information about the people targeted….is not separately recorded in the police report’. So the authors have attempted to deduce from the police report of the incident who the victim was. This section is astonishing. It shows that in only 22.6% of cases was a member of the public the target. In 10.5% workers ie hospital staff, bouncers, taxi drivers etc were the target. However in an incredible 41.5% of cases the police were the victims. And in another 33% of cases there was no direct victim but rather ‘the general community’ was targeted. This means in 74.5% of cases the police defined what behaviour was aggravated by hate, decided to make an arrest, were the only witnesses to it, and in the majority of these cases they were the victims too. The report also shows that in 19.3% of all cases the perpetrator was in police custody (either police car or station) at the time of the offence!
We ask again who are the police? What is their demographic make up? They are being given ever-increasing powers and a key role in defining these hate crimes and yet we do not know who they are. What if it transpired that the police were overwhelmingly from the community or perpetrators and not from the community 4 times more likely to be victims? We need transparency and accountability in policing and at the moment we have neither.
Already the football data is being used by the Nats to justify their new Offensive Behaviour Bill. However some questions arise from the statistics that they really have to answer. The increase in football related arrests suggests the police are not without the required powers to act. The police will always want more powers but a responsible government would ensure that existing legislation is being used correctly before introducing new draconian laws. The report clearly shows, as the previous one did also, that Catholics in Scotland continue to be the victims of entrenched prejudice. So why are the SNP forcing through a law which will target that community by banning the singing of certain Irish songs instead of targeting the bigots and racists in Scottish society?
And finally, while the release of this report is welcome we still need to know what happened to the previous years statistics? The Crown Office has admitted destroying them but we need to know, why no back up was kept and who authorised the destruction of this key information? And when did the Justice Minister and the First Minister learn the documents had been destroyed?