POLICE are to round up serial domestic abusers ahead of this weekend’s Old Firm game in a bid to prevent a spate of violent attacks.
Officers from Police Scotland are to proactively target repeat offenders and remove them from their homes to protect their partners during the powderkeg Scottish Cup semi-final tie.
Detective Chief Inspector Sam McCluskey, who leads the national Domestic Abuse Task Force, said that investigators were combing records for “any other criminality to create breathing space for the victim” before Sunday’s match.
Those being targeted could be awaiting trial for assault or have been released from prison on licence with strict conditions attached. Any breach could mean a return behind bars.
Officers aim to detain potential abusers from Friday, when they can be held over the weekend before appearing in court or being returned to prison. Warnings are also being issued to discourage other serial abusers from lashing out.
Police figures from 2011 revealed that on Saturdays when an Old Firm match took place, domestic abuse incidents rose by up to 138.8 per cent. When matches were held on a Sunday, the increase was 96.6 per cent, with an increase of up to 56.8 per cent for weekday matches.
On Sunday, the Glasgow rivals will clash in the semi-final of the Scottish Cup, only the second occasion the two have met since Rangers were demoted to the fourth tier of Scottish football in 2012.
DCI McCluskey said: “We would certainly look at high tariff perpetrators in the run-up to the football match, and there are key specific strategies to try and prevent domestic violence happening.
“What we’re trying to do is keep domestic abuse victims and their children safe. To do that, rather than managing the risk by just going out to attend incidents, we are trying to remove the risk by removing the perpetrator.”
The force has also announced that ahead of the forthcoming season they will for the first time collect data on whether domestic assaults are directly linked to football.
Officers attending domestic incidents will ask victims whether they believe abuse against them is linked to football.
DCI McCluskey added: “What we’re going to try and do this time is capture some information around it that will be data that will allow us to actually measure whether or not it was related to the game, because now, we don’t know that.”
Domestic violence charities say evidence shows that Old Firm clashes are a lightning rod for abuse.
Mhairi McGowan, the head of Assist, a domestic violence support group based in Glasgow, expressed concern that regular competitive fixtures between Celtic and Rangers next season could bring a return of increased domestic violence on match days.
She said: “In the past, when there were Old Firm games there were spikes, quite dramatic at times.
“I had to put on extra staff to deal with the cases that came in on the Monday.
“Looking at what’s happening this weekend will give us some kind of indication. We will all be watching the aftermath.
“If there is a spike this weekend, then I’ll be very worried for next year.”