Today a 24 year old man appeared on petition at Stirling Sheriff Court in relation to the creating of websites which carried sectarian hate messages about Celtic manager Neil Lennon. Iain Rooney, 24, from Callander, appeared in private at Stirling Sheriff Court facing three charges:
- Breach of the Peace
- Breach of the Peace with religious aggravation
- Breach of Section 38(1) of the Criminal Justice and Licensing (Scotland) Act 2002
Sheriff William Gilchrist released Mr Rooney on Bail and no further dates have been scheduled in the matter.
The Scottish Government is planning on passing the Offensive Behaviour at Football and Threatening Communications (Scotland) Bill after the Scottish Parliament’s summer recess. The basic argument being put forward by the Government for this legislation is that the current law is not sufficient. Many have been arguing quite the opposite and stating that the current law is indeed sufficient pointing to Breach of the Peace, the religious aggravation provisions within the Criminal Justice (Scotland) Act 2003 and Section 38 of the Criminal Justice and Licensing (Scotland) Act 2010.
Today we can see the law in action with a man having appeared before a Sheriff as criminal proceedings begin against him for sectarian offences and that is without the Government’s fancy new piece of legislation.
I made a Freedom of Information Request to the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service regarding Section 38 of the Criminal Justice and Licensing (Scotland) Act 2010. The information disclosed by COPFS can be read here.
The case for the proposed legislation does not appear to be proved by the Government. It appears to be more of a headline grabbing stunt to show that the Government is taking the issue of sectarianism in Scotland seriously. The issue of sectarianism is a real and significant one in Scotland, but simply changing the criminal law to give the police yet more powers is not anywhere near enough.