Football related hate crime charges soar
Football related hate crime charges on the rise as minister talks about "appalling" violence at Scottish Cup Final
Hate crime charges under the Scottish Government’s Offensive Behaviour Act have increased by almost 50 per cent during the last year.
Official figures showed there were 287 charges reported to prosecutors under section 1 of the Act in 2015-16, which is aimed at tackling sectarianism and disorder at football.
The statistics were published in the aftermath of last month’s Scottish Cup Final, which was marred by violence following after Hibernian's 3-2 victory over Rangers.
The findings, which represented an increase of 49 per cent on the previous year, were related to 117 football fixtures across 29 stadiums in Scotland in 2015/16.
Matheson, commenting on the figures, said the recent "appalling" scenes at the Rangers v Hibernian Scottish Cup final at Hampden, with some fans invading the pitch showed the behaviour of some football fans continues to be a problem.
“The recent appalling scenes at the Scottish Cup Final demonstrated that the unacceptable behaviour of a minority of football fans continues to be a problem.
“An increase in the number of charges under the Offensive Behaviour Act shows that the legislation continues to be an important tool in tackling all forms of offensive behaviour, including sectarianism, and sends a clear message that such behaviour has no place in a modern, open and inclusive society”, Matheson said.
He added: “I have asked Scottish football to take further steps to address this long-standing issue and I expect to see progress on this imminently.
“Recorded crime in Scotland is now at its lowest level in 41 years and the country is becoming a safer place thanks to the combined efforts of our communities and law enforcement agencies.
“But one incident of hate crime is one too many. Intolerance in any form is simply unacceptable and there is no place for it in 21st century Scotland.
"Whether you’re a victim, or you are someone who witnesses unacceptable behaviour, be assured that the police and other authorities will take your report seriously and respond in a robust way.”
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