Police list sectarianism-linked arrests
THE release of information detailing for the first time the number of fans arrested for sectarian-related offences during an Old Firm football match may not be repeated, despite praise for the move from campaigners.
Following Sunday’s game 52 arrests were made around Celtic Park, with 22 offences relating to the singing of sectarian songs or the chanting of abuse at rival supporters.
One arrest also was made for a race-related incident, with a further 29 fans charged with minor public-disorder offences. Previously, most Old Firm-related arrests would have been collated under "public-disorder" offences - with no distinction made for charges relating to bigotry.
However, a spokeswoman for Strathclyde Police said yesterday that the release of such information had not been a "conscious policy-decision," and may have been a one-off.
The spokeswoman said: "The decision was taken by the divisional commander in charge of Celtic games, but whether this now will become common practice, I don’t know.
"The decision to release the figures did not come about as a result of a policy-meeting - it was not a conscious policy decision."
But the move to publicise the information was welcomed by the Glasgow-based anti-sectarian charity Nil By Mouth.
A spokesman said: "People will naturally be alarmed and dismayed at this level of sectarian behaviour following an Old Firm game, but sadly it is all too familiar.
"Strathclyde Police are to be commended for taking action to arrest the culprits.
"They must also be commended for the decision to provide such a transparent and accountable report of these arrests," he added.
The move was described as "a huge step forward" by the Liberal Democrat MSP Donald Gorrie who has called on the Scottish Parliament to treat offences associated with sectarianism in a similar manner to race-related crime.
He said: "I think it is excellent that Strathclyde Police have released these figures, and I hope they will continue to do so.
"It helps to assess the problems which can arise from these football matches, because in the past there has been a lack of hard information relating to arrests, and whether or not they were related to sectarianism."
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