BY Peter Diamond | September 28 | comments icon 0 COMMENTS     print icon print

4 - FLAG

Flying Vatican flag in ‘provocative manner’ could be a criminal act, police document says

The Vatican flag has been included in an official Police Scotland list of flags which could be deemed a criminal offence to display.

The ‘restricted’ document issued to police officers—obtained by the Herald on Sunday using Freedom of Information legislation— includes pictures of symbols and flags which ‘if flown in a provocative manner’ could potentially be viewed as a crime.

Just eight years ago in September 2010 nearly 70,000 Catholics peacefully waved Vatican flags in Bellahouston Park when Pope Benedict XVI celebrated Mass.

A spokesman for the Catholic Church said: “It would be very concerning if the Vatican flag was in any circumstance deemed offensive.

“It has been flown proudly in Scotland on the occasion of two Papal visits without upset or incident and its use should not be restricted in any way.”

According to the Herald on Sunday report, Police Scotland provided the list to officers tasked with overseeing DUP leader Arlene Foster’s visit to Fife in June for an Orange Order event.

Police Scotland’s list of flags, which are potentially criminal to display, contains short descriptions of the significance of each flag and references armed struggles and the perceived links to sectarianism.

Some of the flags included Vatican, Israel, Irish Tricolour, Palestine, Basque, and Catalan.

The restricted police document states: “Whilst the display of the following flags is not an offence, in itself, if flown or displayed in a provocative manner or altered, constitute a common law Breach of the Peace or an offence under Section 38 of the Criminal Justice and Licensing (Scotland) Act 2000.

“If they are altered to contain a reference to a proscribed organisation they may constitute an offence under Section 13 of the Terrorism Act 2000.

“Irrespective of the above, the possession of these flags within a football ground may constitute a breach of ground regulations.

“As such, if these flags are seen, the stadium control room should be contacted; they will liaise with the football club and advise officers as to the appropriate course of action.”

Officers can charge perpetrators with Breach of the Peace or an offence under Section 38 of the Criminal Justice and Licencing (Scotland) Act 2010 and, if convicted in court, offenders who fly the flags could face up to five years in prison.

Police Scotland would not discuss specific examples of criminal flag flying.

Chief Superintendent John McKenzie from Police Scotland’s Safer Communities said: “Often flags themselves are not the issue but the criminal conduct that accompanies them is.

“This could include, but is not limited to, threatening gestures or words, or flags being amended to show support for a proscribed terrorist group or amendments which constitute a hate crime.”

The Scottish Catholic Observer approached Justice Secretary Humza Yousaf for a comment on the issue.

A Scottish Government spokesman said: “It is not an offence to fly the flag of the Vatican or any other country.”

 

 

 

 

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