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Thursday, 5 December, 2002, 11:38 GMT
Tackling bigotry: the proposals
Old Firm fans
Early kick-off times for Old Firm games are suggested
A package of measures is required to stamp out sectarianism in Scotland, according to MSPs.

A cross-party working group on religious hatred has published its report, which has been put out for consultation by the Scottish Executive.

The group recommends that legislation should be introduced which would enable courts to hand out stiffer penalties for crimes motivated by sectarianism.

However, the report adds: "Without a package of enforcement measures, as well as situational and social prevention, legislation alone is unlikely to have much effect."

Here are the committee's 12 recommendations for action.

Recommendation one

The Lord Advocate should issue up-to-date detailed guidelines to the police on their handling of alleged offences.

There should be specific consideration of any motivation of religious hostility, which should be fully recorded in the report to the Procurator Fiscal.

Recommendation two

The Crown Office should update its guidelines to prosecutors to ensure that any religious elements are brought before the court and are not withdrawn in return for an accused agreeing to plead guilty to a lesser offence.

Recommendation three

The Crown Office should record the number of offences with a religious motivation which are prosecuted, along with the outcome of each case.

Recommendation four

The Scottish Executive should commission research into incidents of religious and sectarian hatred, following the progress of cases through the criminal justice system.

Any such research should seek to understand the motivation of offenders and the impact of the crimes on their victims.

A study should be commissioned of contemporary sectarianism, which would provide information on the most effective approaches to tackling the problem.

All projects and programmes designed to reduce sectarian attitudes should be evaluated.

Recommendation five

The Scottish Football Association should make it a licensing condition that clubs have policies against sectarian behaviour - and that they take steps to vigorously enforce those policies at matches.

Failure to do so should carry penalties up to, and including, the loss of a licence.

Clubs and police should be required to report on the measures and their effectiveness in tackling sectarianism.

Recommendation six

Football clubs should take specific action against supporters indulging in insulting sectarian behaviour.

Fans could be banned from the ground for one or more matches and seat allocations could be reduced for supporters' clubs whose members have behaved unacceptably.

Clubs should take steps to ensure increased effectiveness of the monitoring and subsequent discipline of supporters who use sectarian behaviour at away matches.

They should publicise the numbers of people who have been warned, suspended or banned from matches - and name those concerned.

Recommendation seven

The police, Procurators Fiscal and football clubs should share information to identify and deal with those supporters who are charged with or convicted of offences at or near football grounds - including those involving an element of religious hatred.

The police should inform a supporter's home club as soon as possible if they are arrested for such an offence.

Procurators Fiscal should tell the home club of any action that is being taken, and the Sheriff Clerk should inform the club of a conviction for any offence committed in the context of a football match.

Recommendation eight

Earlier kick-offs for Old Firm matches should, as far as possible, become the norm.

Recommendation nine

All local authorities should licence street traders and introduce conditions preventing them from selling any offensive sectarian material in the context of football matches.

The police should monitor the situation and report any breaches to the local authority, who should suspend the licence.

Recommendation 10

The police, Crown Office, Scottish Executive, local authorities, relevant voluntary organisations, Scottish Football Association and Old Firm clubs should join together at senior level to co-ordinate and monitor a continuing response to religious hatred as it affects them.

They should develop policies to spotlight and target religious intolerance and evaluate the progress and effectiveness of the work being carried out.

After 12 months the group should provide the Scottish Executive with a snapshot report, which should also be presented to the Scottish Parliament.

Recommendation 11

The co-ordinating group should seek to encourage, sponsor and evaluate project programmes and research designed to change sectarian and other aspects of religious hatred.

Recommendation 12

Following the evaluation of the current advertising campaign promoting a tolerant society, the Scottish Executive should consider a campaign to promote a Scotland free from religious hatred.

See also:

05 Dec 02 | Scotland
03 Dec 02 | Scotland
16 Oct 02 | Scotland
13 Oct 02 | Scotland
07 Oct 02 | Scotland
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