The mysterious case of the missing data...

Published on Tuesday 11th October, 2011 by Celtic Trust

The COPFS put us all to shame with their efficient and prompt cleaning operations....

Amidst all the contributions from football fans and others regarding the proposed Offensive Behaviour at Football Bill, one of the consistent themes has been that we don't need this Bill because we already have legislation (Section 74 (Religious aggravation) offences introduced in 2003) which deals with the issue of sectarianism.  Leaving aside the now growing suspicion that it is not sectarianism the Government actually wants to deal with, an obvious response to this is that we should look at the data that we already have and see what that tells us.  The Catholic Church in Scotland has been asking for this data for some years now as have a number of distinguished academics such as Professor Tom Devine, the eminent  historian.  The small tranche of data (about 6 months worth) which was released made interesting reading.  It showed that most of these offences (86%) were not commited near or in connection with football; that drink was a factor in most of them; that Catholics were twice as likely to be victims of these offences (even before  you take into account the proportion of Catholics in the population which increases the multiple to six times as likely).  If the whole data set (2003 to 2011) confirmed these statistics then the Government would need to think very seriously about the extent to which the legislation they were proposing was either necessary or would address the real issues.  The admission by the Crown Office Procurator Fiscal Service (COPFS) that the data from 2005-2009 was destroyed, despite earlier claims that they could not provide it because it would have to be retrieved from a number of separate systems, is explosive and takes the debate way beyond issues around football and into the realm of what one observer describes as 'government malfeasance'.

This piece of legislation is increasingly looking like the rock on which Alex Salmond will perish.  There will, at the very least, be demands for disclosure about who ordered the destruction of this data, when it was destroyed, why misleading answers were given when it was asked for; why up until last weekend was the Justice Committee unaware that this data was gone etc etc

We would encourage all Celtic fans as well as non-Celtic fans who happen to believe in democracy to ask their MSPs to ensure that answers to these questions are given.  If you don't know who your MSP is, you can find it at Who is my MSP?

If anyone would like a model email to send then please let us know and we will publish one on this site.

In the meantime, there is a very interesting discussion of the issues at this link Scottish Law Blog


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