140 ‘hate’ charges after Hibs v Rangers final

Police on the pitch after the game
Police on the pitch after the game

MORE than a third of offences under laws aimed at tackling sectarianism in football last year took place at the Hibs v Rangers Scottish Cup final.

Disorder broke out at the end of the match, which saw the Easter Road side score a historic victory to lift the trophy for the first time in 114 years.

New figures have now revealed that 140 charges were made following the match under the Offensive Behaviour at Football and Threatening Communications (Scotland) Act.

In total, 377 charges were levelled across Scotland in 2016/17 under the legislation – up 32 per cent on the previous year.

Almost half – 44 per cent – of victims in religiously aggravated charges were police officers, the statistics from the Crown Office show.

Religious hate crime in Scotland increased last year, according to new figures.

There were 673 charges with a religious aggravation reported in 2016/17, up 14 per cent on 2015/16, the highest number of charges reported over the last four years.

Elsewhere, racial crime remained the most commonly-reported hate crime.

There were 3349 charges reported in 2016/17, 10 per cent fewer than in 2015/16, and the lowest number reported since 2003/04.

Sexual orientation aggravated crime was the second most common type of hate crime, with 1075 charges reported in 2016/17, an increase of 5 per cent on the previous year.

There were also 188 charges reported in 2016/17 with an aggravation of prejudice relating to disability, 6 per cent fewer than in 2015-16.

Community safety minister Annabelle Ewing said: “Any crime motivated by prejudice is absolutely unacceptable.

“I remain concerned that hate crimes are under-reported and want to encourage anyone who has been subjected to such appalling acts to come forward to ensure that perpetrators can be dealt with appropriately.

“We will keep engaging with community leaders on how best to raise awareness of how such crimes can be reported and in the meantime. We will continue to work with Police Scotland and others to ensure a robust response to perpetrators.”

She added: “The number of charges under the Offensive Behaviour Act demonstrate that we still have a problem with offensive and abusive behaviour related to football matches, and that we need legislation to give our police the powers required to ensure that football is not immune from the standards expected in the rest of society.”

Lord Advocate James Wolffe QC said: “We continue to work with the police and support organisations to encourage people to come forward in relation to any hate crime.

“I would like to assure anyone affected by hate crime that they live in a society in which law enforcement agencies will ensure any report is treated with the utmost seriousness.”

Hibs issued an apology following their cup final victory, with chairman Rod Petrie insisting: “I condemn and the club condemns all of the violence and unacceptable conduct perpetrated on the pitch and elsewhere and in the margins of the match at Hampden. There is no place for it in the game of football.”

newsen@edinburghnews.com