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3-POLICE

Police urge action on hate crime as priest is attacked

By Amanda Connelly

Police Scotland is encouraging Catholics across the country to report religious hate crime in a week in which an elderly parish priest in Dundee may have fallen victim to sectarian abuse.

As part of a week-long awareness campaign, people in Scotland are being urged to call the police if they witness a hate crime taking place.

In recent weeks St Columba’s Church in Kirkton, Dundee, has been subject to repeated acts of vandalism, including the spray painting of an obscene image on the side of the church, smashed windows, and slates being ripped off the roof.

There have also been claims that roof slates were launched at 70-year-old Fr Neil Gallagher when he approached the vandals. The damage has left the parish with repair costs.

One member of the congregation, Martin MacGregor, told The Courier there was a potential sectarian element to the crime.

“Fr Neil has had slates ripped off the roof and there has been lead stolen from the roof,” he said. “On Sunday night they smashed windows on the church house. When Fr Neil challenged them then there was lots of shouting and bawling in the street. We think it is local youths.

“After Mass on Sunday someone even had stones thrown at their car as they left. Given that they are targeting a church there is potentially a sectarian element. To me, it’s a hate crime.”

Earlier this year, Sts John and Columba’s in Rosyth saw parishioners subjected to sectarian abuse and pelted with eggs as they arrived for Mass while an SCO investigation revealed that a Christian church was attacked every two weeks on average last year.

Chief Superintendent Barry McEwan, head of Safer Communities, Police Scotland, said: “Hate crime of any description will not be tolerated in Scotland—it causes fear, isolation and a sense of helplessness for its victims and Police Scotland is committed to ensuring people feel safe in their own communities. Tackling hate crime is a key priority for our officers, however we can only address these problems if people report crimes to us.

“Whether you are a victim or a witness, it is vitally important that you come forward.”

Hate crime can be reported to any police station, by calling 101, or through the Police Scotland website.

 

PIC: NICO BEARD

 

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