I’ve just caught Joe O’Rourke’s article on the Association site about the long-awaited released of statistics on sectarian crime in Scotland. Joe suggests that the data from 2003 – 2010 was has been destroyed by the Crown Office. I also hear that the Scottish Government will release entirely irrelevant ‘information’ today, specifically, where offences took place, not which groups were responsible or which groups were targeted by the offenders.
It takes a lot of effort to make sure you destroy data these days, you need to ensure not only that prosecutors permanently delete backups (which I really doubt they do) but also that the police similarly comply.
Fortunately all is not lost. While it’s just about believable that regional police forces across Scotland and the Crown Office have acted in symmetry on this issue, I could have helped the First Minister, Alex Salmond’s, search for clarity by pointing him in the direction of British Transport Police (BTP). The Transport Police are a separate force who operate across Britain and are run by the Home Office in London. They are also a lot less proficient at destroying data.
They previously gave me detailed statistics on all incidents they record in connection with Scottish football for season 2007-08. One of the most pleasing aspects of the information is the complete eradication of sectarian offences from all but one Scottish club, so the First Minister will be delighted to learn he has a smaller problem on his hands than he perhaps knew. According to BTP, 11 arrests were made for sectarian offences in total, 10 Rangers fans and one Northern Ireland fan.
You can see the detail figures for all recorded incidents here (the majority of which are for non-sectarian issues). From a total of 99 incidents (not all of which resulted in arrest), there were six involving Celtic fans, six for Dundee United, seven for Motherwell, four for Hibernian and five each for Aberdeen and Hearts. Rangers fans were involved in a total of 48 incidents.
The BPT figures also make it clear that most incidents occur when fans travel to away venues. The Force also confirmed that incidents surrounding the 2008 Uefa Cup final in Manchester were not included in these statistics.
To further aid Mr Salmond in his search for clarity on this issue, he can contact British Transport Police with a Freedom of Information request here, where they will be able to provide him (or you) with up to date stats.