Section 74 of the Criminal Justice (Scotland) Act 2003 allowed for an offence to be proved to have been aggravated by religious prejudice. This was a recommendation of the Cross Party Working Group on Religious Hatred. The Working Group also recommended the Crown Office should establish suitable methods to record the incidence of religious motivation in offences prosecuted and the outcome in each case.
In a letter to Scotland's top law officer, Cardinal O'Brien said;
"In advance of the First minister s proposed Summit on Sectarianism I feel strongly that debate on this topic must be underpinned by empirical evidence. Accordingly, I would welcome your confirmation that the publication of a detailed analysis of these offences will resume in early course."
The Cardinal added;
"The initial analysis of these sectarianism statistics published by the Crown Office in November 2004 however preliminary and limited very usefully cast doubt on the widespread presumption that sectarianism in Scotland is little more than alcohol induced, post match revelry and hooliganism. Additionally and very worryingly, they showed that a Catholic is over 6 times more likely to be abused than a Protestant."**
Cardinal O'Brien concluded;
"Without an ongoing commitment on the part of the prosecuting authorities to publish a detailed analysis of such offences we will have no way of quantifying the problem we face or determining whether or not it responds to initiatives aimed at eradicating it or the extent to which anti-sectarian initiatives are working. If 85% of sectarian attacks in 2004 were not related to football, it seems pointless to channel all our energies into an exclusive focus on football clubs. Equally if Catholics, as seems the case, are disproportionately attacked then special attention must be given to addressing the social and political climate which allows this to happen and listening to the views of the Catholic community.
Catholic Media Office
5 St. Vincent Place
0141 221 1168
** Note to Editors:
In November of 2004, the Crown Office published a detailed analysis of the charges that included section 74 aggravations. Of the charges analysed, 110 had resulted in pleas or findings of guilt. Preliminary observations of the study concluded that there were twice as many cases in which the conduct was targeted against Roman Catholicism than against Protestantism. 1% (one case) had Islam as the target and 1% (one case) had Judaism as the target.
Only 14% of the cases examined related specifically to football or the support of a particular team, while 15% of cases arose in the context of Marches.
An analysis by the Catholic Media Office showed that when expressing incidents as so many per 100,000 of the relevant population, out of 110 incidents, 31 (29%) were described as ˜targeting Protestants and 68 (63%) as ˜targeting Catholics. There are around 850,000 (17%) Catholics and 2,450,000 (49%) Protestants in Scotland, according to the 2001 census.
Therefore there are 68/850,000 = 8 abuses of Catholics per 100,000 of Catholic population and 31 / 2,450,000 = 1.3 abuses of Protestants per 100,000 of Protestant population. Hence the Catholic Media Office concluded a Catholic is over 6 times more likely to be abused than a Protestant.