BY Ian Dunn | June 16 2017 | comments icon 0 COMMENTS     print icon print

1-ANTI-CATHOLIC

‘Radical rethink’ needed on tackling bigotry, Church says

Call for society to acknowledge problem of anti-Catholicism

The Church has urged the Scottish Government to ‘radically rethink’ its anti-sectarianism ­policy after new figures showed a dramatic increase in crimes with an anti-Catholic element.

The Scottish Government’s annual report on religiously aggravated offending in Scotland found that Roman Catholicism was most often the subject of reported abuse, with 384 charges for 2016-17.

This is an increase of 28 per cent on the previous year. A government spokesman said they believed the rise was down to greater awareness.

 

Great concern

Peter Kearney, director of the Scottish Catholic Media Office, said the increase in religious hate crime in Scotland is ‘a matter of great concern.’

“Religiously aggravated crime is at a four-year high, with 719 charges in 2016-17,” he said. “Worryingly, over half of all religious hate crime targets Catholics or Catholicism, with anti-Catholic charges accounting for 57 per cent of all charges.

“Since Protestantism is attacked in 27 per cent of cases and Islam in 17 per cent of cases, it is clear that parity of animosity does not exist and the problem is not a ‘balanced’ one where, in the words of the oft-used cliche, one side is as bad as the other.”

Mr Kearney said this meant that a ‘radical rethink of so-called anti-sectarian initiatives’ is needed. “Demonstrably, existing programmes designed to tackle religiously ­aggravated offending have not worked, in fact they have failed ­spectacularly and need to be ­comprehensively reviewed,” he said.

“Specific action and policies to tackle anti-Catholicism are clearly required. An acknowledgement that anti-Catholicism not only exists but, as measured by police and prosecutors, is growing, is long overdue. We urgently need to set benchmarks and targets for the eradication of this insidious and poisonous hatred in Scottish society.”

Minister for Community Safety Annabelle Ewing said: “Any crime motivated by prejudice is absolutely unacceptable. While the statistics show a decrease in reported racial crimes, there have been increases in those related to sexual orientation, religion and transgender identity and we cannot be complacent about [how] these crimes are dealt with.”

A spokesperson for the Scottish Government said it was significant that ‘the police were the victim of religiously aggravated offending in 293 charges (44 per cent of the total), an increase of 24 per cent since 2015-16.

“These charges,” the spokesperson said, “often relate to incidents where the police arrested the accused for a separate charge, which may not have involved religious prejudice, and were then abused in religiously offensive terms afterwards.”

 

Rangers’ return

Stuart Waiton, a senior lecturer at the University of Abertay who specialises in the study of sectarianism, said ‘increased sensitivity’ among police officers was one of the factors behind the rise in anti-Catholic incidents.

“Part of it will be associated with Rangers coming back into the ­top-flight and the increased number of Old Firm games,” he said.

“Also, while you have to look at each crime in context, I think we are essentially encouraging grown men to tell tales about supposedly ‘offensive language’ where the need for police involvement is minimal.”

ian@sconews.co.uk

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