David O’Connor: The law is now clearly defined

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NOW that there is a statutory offence, I’ve absolutely no doubt the police will use it to combat the problems that we have with sectarianism in our game.

We have got a number of powers already at our disposal, but this will allow us to focus on a particular, specific offence, because up until now we’ve been relying on common law, breach of the peace and other aggravated offences.

The bottom line is that the law is now clearly defined. Before, we had to look at other legislation and the wording of other legislation.

There’s not been a lot said about the second part of the bill that will allow closer policing of social media networks, but a lot of the problems that we’re seeing are now moving away from the public place like the High Street or Main Street and into the back room or bedroom.

This brings clarity to the situation, which will help our officers across Scotland in tackling this type of problem.

Clearly, if you’re dealing with sectarian behaviour which strikes at the very heart of our social fabric in Scotland, there will be an expectation on my part and on the part of operational leaders within the police to encourage officers to make sure they’re using the powers available to them.

We’ve now got the anti-sectarian unit covering the whole of Scotland and invested in evidence-gathering teams, but we’ll have to do more to make sure we are gathering the best evidence available.

• David O’Connor is president of the Association of Scottish Police Superintendents.