Use of Section 74 of the Criminal Justice (Scotland) Act 2003 - Religiously Aggravated Reported Crime: An 18 Month Review

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Chapter Three: Findings

3.1 This chapter is separated into 3 sections. Section 1 compares the findings from the COPFS report on the first 6 months (27 th June 2003 - 31 st Dec 2003) of the operation of Section 74 of the Criminal Justice (Scotland) Act 2003 with data for the same period in 2004 (27 th June 2004 - 31 st Dec 2004). Section 2 explores cases with a religious aggravation between Jan. 2004 and June 2005 using the COPFS data base and police reports. Section 3 combines data from the police reports and the COPFS database to explore the context and progress of cases involving one accused and one charge (see paragraphs 2.4-2.6 for an explanation of this approach).

Section 1: Update of COPFS Report

3.2 In June 2005, COPFS published a report analysing the first 6 months (27 th June 2003 - 31 st Dec 2003) of operation of Section 74 of the Criminal Justice (Scotland) Act 2003. This section compares the data collected on the first 6 months of operations with data from the same period during 2004 (27 th June 2004 - 31 st Dec 2004). Annex A contains the updated main tables from the original COPFS report, which compare the figures for 27 th June 2003- 31 st Dec 2003 and 27 th June 2004 - 31 st Dec 2004. These tables indicate the following main findings:

  • The number of reported incidents increased from 108 to 168, a 55% increase. This increase of 59 incidents is largely a result of the increased reporting within Glasgow and Lanarkshire; from 58 to 90 in Glasgow and from 24 to 48 in Lanarkshire.
  • The percentage of incidents that occurred in Glasgow did not change significantly (54% to 55%), whereas the proportion of incidents that occurred in Lanarkshire increased slightly (22% to 29%)
  • The police were the intended target of religious aggravation in 57 of the 168 cases between June and December 2004. In terms of the percentage of all cases, the police were the targets in 34% of cases in June -December 2004, compared to 36% in June - December 2003.
  • A broadly similar proportion of cases involved accused being reported as under the influence of alcohol, however this finding should be taken cautiously due to the large amount of cases were the role of alcohol was not stated.
  • In 100 of the 168 cases between June and December 2004, the conduct was viewed as derogatory towards Roman Catholicism, while in 57 cases the conduct was derogatory towards Protestantism. Between the two periods considered, there is a slight decrease in the percentage of cases viewed as derogatory to Roman Catholicism 63% to 59%, and the percentage of cases viewed as derogatory to Protestantism slightly increased from 29% to 34%. It should be noted that no information was available on the victim's religion, and thus it is not possible to infer from these data which religious group was targeted by these offences.
  • During both the time periods considered, the majority of cases were brought against males. When considering the age of all accused, there would seem to have been an increase in the proportion of accused aged 16-20 year olds (from 18% to 28%) and decrease in those aged 21-30 (from 40% to 31%).
  • Due to the high number of cases which did not state whether the incident was related to football or a march/parade, it is difficult to come to strong conclusions of any such associations. However, if we were to assume that all cases that were linked to football or a march/parade were reported as such, there was an increase in football related incidents (14% to 21%) and a decrease in march/parade related incidents (15% -9%) between these 2 time periods.

3.3 The evidence from the cases considered during this period (June - December 2004) largely concur with the initial trends identified in the COPFS report. There are some slightly fluctuations, however these should not be over- emphasised due to the limited time covered by these comparisons. A further examination of the cases, presented in the next section, will provide a better understanding of relevant trends and a more in-depth examination of the characteristics of those who were charged with religiously aggravated offences between Jan 2004 and June 2005.

Section 2: Analysis of Cases between January 2004 - June 2005

3.4 Two data sources are used in this section to further explore the cases reported to COPFS between Jan 2004 - June 2005. The first is the COPFS database, which allows charges to be tracked through the court process, and the second is police reports to COPFS, which allows consideration of the circumstances of each event leading to a charge. It should be noted that as police reports are concerned with a particular incident that may give rise to a number of charges for a number of different offenders, there are less police reports than charges.

Analysis of COPFS data base January 2004-June 2005.

3.5 Based on data from the COPFS data base there were 726 charges with a religious aggravation from 1 st January 2004 to 30 th June 2005. At 17 th January 2006, 441 (61%) of these charges were proven, 105 (14%) were found to be not guilty, 13 (2%) not proven and 13 (2%) had been deserted. Ninety six charges (13%) had yet to be completed and 21 (3%) had not been taken any further. No proceedings had been taken in relation to 37 charges (5%).

3.6 Of the 441 charges proven, 386 (88%) were breach of the peace, 29 (7%) were in relation to assault charges 3 and 13 (3%) were vandalism charges 4. Each charge recorded has a corresponding aggravation code that categorises the charges into different types of religious prejudice. Table B - 1 in the appendix provides a breakdown of the aggravation codes for charges proven.

Analysis of Police Reports to COPFS Jan 2004 - June 2005

Numbers of Cases and location of incident

3.7 Six hundred and forty cases have been reported to Procurators Fiscal since Section 74 came into force. Table 1 gives a breakdown of all these cases, however the majority of this report will focus on the 532 cases that occurred between 1 st January 2004 and 30 th June 2005 and for which the police reports were analysed. Table 1 shows that there has been an ongoing increase in the number of cases during this period, with the number of cases increasing by larger amounts every 6 months. This upward trend is expected after the introduction of a new measure, and so it is too early to discern particular patterns from this data.

Table 1 Number of Cases for each 6 month period

Six month periods

Number

27 th June - 31 st December 03

108

1st Jan - 26th June 04

130

27th June 0-30th Dec 04

168

1st Jan - 26th June 05

234

Total

640

  • Source: Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service (2005) Sectarian/Religiously Aggravated Crime: An analysis of the first 6 months (Edinburgh: Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service) and the police case papers for all cases between 1 st January 2004 to 30 th June 2005

3.8 Whereas the data for the whole of Scotland does not provide a great insight into the use of Section 74, it is possible to detect some interesting findings when looking at the data for individual Local Authority areas. Table B - 2 in the appendix provides detailed results for all Local Authority Areas, with the results for Glasgow and Lanarkshire reproduced in Table 2. These tables show the majority of offences occur in Glasgow and Lanarkshire. A total of 427 cases between January 2004 and June 2005 were located within Glasgow and Lanarkshire (North and South combined), 303 and 124 respectively. The number of reported incidents in Glasgow increased from 59 in the first 6 months to 154 in the last 6 months of this review while Lanarkshire's incidence reduced from 47 to 29 in the same period. Notably, the reduction in the number of cases within Lanarkshire was predominantly within North Lanarkshire. Whereas the time series is too short to assess whether such a change is significant, for example it may be due to exceptionally local circumstances in this period, it is still unexpected, especially when compared to the increase in cases in Lanarkshire found in section 1 of this chapter.

3.9 It is worth restating at this point that these figures are based on police reports to Procurators Fiscal and thus represent police activity to detect and report offences that are religiously aggravated. As such, they should not be taken to reflect the amount or pattern of such offences that occur in Scotland.

Table 2 Offences that Occurred within Glasgow and Lanarkshire

Local Authority Area

1st Jan - 26th June 04

27th June - 30th Dec 04

1st Jan - 26th June 05

Total

Number

%

Number

%

Number

%

Number

%

Glasgow

59

45.4

90

53.9

154

65.5

303

57.0

North Lanarkshire

28

21.5

29

17.4

15

6.4

72

16.5

South Lanarkshire

19

14.6

19

11.4

14

6.0

52

9.8

Total

106

81.5

138

82.7

183

77.9

427

83.3

Note to table

  • The percentages shown here do not add to 100 as they are based on the proportion of all offences across Scotland, not within the Glasgow and Lanarkshire areas.
  • Source: Police case papers for all cases between 1 st January 2004 to 30 th June 2005

3.10 Table 3 presents the location of offences for the 532 cases reported to Procurators Fiscal between Jan 2004-June 2005. The incidents occurred in various places across Scotland with the most frequent being busy main streets (n=151: 28.4%). One hundred incidents (18.8%) occurred in football stadia while 79 (14.8%) occurred in a residential area and 67 (12.6%) in a private household. For each 6 month period considered, the number of incidents more or less saw a gradual increase for each locus, with the exception of those located on a busy main street and in a football stadium. The number of reported incidents on a busy main street increased from 39 in January - June 2004 to 43 in June - December 2004, and to 69 incidents in January - June 2005. The number of reported incidents that occurred in a football stadium increased from 10 in January - June 2004 to 55 in January - June 2005. The proportion of reported incidents that occurred in a football stadium rose from 8% to 24% during the same period. Thus, there seems to be more active use of this measure in football stadia. Please see the later paragraphs of this report which consider all football-related incidents, including those that occurred outwith a football stadium.

Table 3 Locus of Offences for each 6 month period

Locus of Offence

1st Jan - 26th June 04

27th June - 30th Dec 04

1st Jan - 26th June 05

Total

Number

%

Number

%

Number

%

Number

%

Club/pub

12

9.2

16

9.5

21

9.0

49

9.2

Domestic Dwelling

18

13.8

25

14.9

24

10.3

67

12.6

Football Stadium

10

7.7

35

20.8

55

23.5

100

18.8

Main Street

39

30.0

43

25.6

69

29.5

151

28.4

Police Car/Station

7

5.4

14

8.3

13

5.5

34

6.4

Residential Area

25

19.2

21

12.5

33

14.1

79

14.8

Transport

5

3.8

5

3.0

6

2.6

16

3.0

Other

14

10.8

9

5.4

13

5.5

36

6.8

Grand Total

130

100.0

167

100.0

235

100.0

532

100.0

Note to table

  • Not all of the percentages sum to 100 due to rounding
  • Source: Police case papers for all cases between 1 st January 2004 to 30 th June 2005

3.11 When comparing the difference in the locus of the incidents for Glasgow and Lanarkshire, 44% in Glasgow in comparison to 26% in Lanarkshire occurred on busy main street. Moreover, proportionately more incidents occurred within a private household and a residential area in Lanarkshire; within Glasgow 9% and 17% of incidents occurred in a private household and a residential area respectively, in comparison to 19% and 25% in Lanarkshire 5.

Analysis of individuals accused of an offence with religious aggravation

3.12 From all the 532 cases considered here, there were a total of 635 individuals accused of religious prejudice. The overwhelming majority of the accused were male (92%) with an average age of 29 years. Figure 1 shows the number of accused within each age bracket for male and female accused. The most frequent age group is 21-30 for males and 16-20 for females. Just over one third of all accused were between the ages 21-30 while 26% were between 16-20 and 22% between 31-40.

Figure 1 Age of accused for male and female

image of Figure 1 Age of accused for male and female

Note to chart

  • The total number here is 634 as the age for one of the accused was not detailed within the case paper.
  • Source: Police case papers from 1 st January 2004 to 30 th June 2005

3.13 The majority of the accused reside within Glasgow and Lanarkshire, 34% and 30% respectively. Details can be found in Table B - 3 in the appendix. For each 6 month period examined the proportion of the accused across all Local Authority areas increased gradually with the exception of North Lanarkshire where the proportion of accused decreased from 26% in January - June 2004 to 12% in January - June 2005.

3.14 When looking at the area of residence for individuals accused of committing an offence in Glasgow, an interesting pattern emerges: 44% of the offences in Glasgow were committed by those who reside outwith Glasgow while 30% of offences in Glasgow were committed by those who live outwith Glasgow and Lanarkshire. Conversely, offences located within Lanarkshire were primarily committed by those living within Lanarkshire, with 58% living in North Lanarkshire and 33% in South Lanarkshire. It would appear that although religious aggravated offences are predominantly reported in Glasgow, a significant minority of individuals committing these offences lived throughout Scotland.

Victims of an offence with religious aggravation

3.15 In 507 of the 532 cases considered, the conduct of the accused was viewed as derogatory to Roman Catholicism or Protestantism; 343 (64%) and 164 (31%) respectively. It should be noted that there is no information available on the victims' religion and thus it is not possible to infer from these data whether members of a particular religion were subjected to these offences.

3.16 The conduct of the accused was directed toward certain individuals and/or groups which were categorised as follows: the community 6, civilian 7, police and worker 8. From all 532 cases, a total of 647 individuals/groups were targeted. In 41% of cases the target was the community, a civilian in 24% of the cases and a worker in 7% of the cases. The police were subjected to religious aggravation in 28% of the cases.

Incidents related to the Consumption of Alcohol, Football or Marches

3.17 The data collected from the police reports was examined thoroughly to explore any links between alcohol, marches, football and cases with religious aggravation. It should be noted that the police reports did not consistently record information about these elements and thus the data contained in the following sections should be treated with caution.

3.18 In 255 (out of 532) cases, the police reports explicitly stated whether alcohol was involved in the incident 9. The police reported that in 242 of these cases the accused was under the influence and in 13 cases the accused was not. It could be inferred from a further 73 cases that it was likely the accused was under the influence 10, however, this was not explicitly stated in the police report. Table 4 provides a detailed account of the locus of the offences when the accused was, or was likely to be, under the influence of alcohol. These loci are widely dispersed with the most frequent occurring on a busy main street, which is particularly noticeable amongst accused who were likely to be under the influence of alcohol. Notably, due to the way in which the locus of the incidents are reported, it is possible that a number of the incidents that occurred on a main street would have been outside a pub or club.

3.19 In 64 (out of 532) cases, the police reports stated that the case was specifically related to a march or parade. The number of cases increased from 14 to 35 between January - June 2004 and January - June 2005. Not surprisingly, the majority of these offences (45) took place on a busy main street, 9 in a residential area and 6 in a club or pub 11. Of these 64 cases, 52 occurred in relation to County Grand Orange Lodge Parades, 6 in relation to the Apprentice Boys of Derry Marches and 6 in relation to Republican Marches. The conduct of the accused revealed that in the majority of the cases religious aggravation was directed towards the participants and/or spectators of the march.

Table 4 Locus of Offences for Accused Under the Influence of Alcohol

Locus of Offence

Accused under the Influence of Alcohol

Yes

Likely

Total

Number

%

Number

%

Number

%

Club/pub

35

14.0

8

11.0

43

13.7

Domestic Dwelling

44

18.2

2

2.7

46

14.6

Football Stadium

14

5.8

2

2.7

16

5.1

Main Street

65

26.9

35

47.9

100

31.7

Police Car/Station

19

7.9

9

12.3

28

8.9

Residential Area

35

14.5

12

16.4

47

14.9

Transport

10

4.1

1

1.4

11

3.5

Other

20

8.3

4

5.5

24

7.6

Grand Total

242

100.0

73

100.0

315

100.0

Note to table

  • Not all percentages add to 100 due to rounding
  • Source: Police case papers for all cases between 1 st January 2004 to 30 th June 2005

3.20 Just under one third (174) of all cases were related to a football match or the support of a particular football team 12 with 100 occurring in a football stadium, 31 on a busy main street, 17 in a pub or club, 15 in a residential area, 6 in a private household and 5 in other locations that cannot be easily slotted into one of the above categories 13. Of the 100 incidents located in a football stadium, 63 were in Celtic Park, 25 in Ibrox Stadium (Rangers Football Club), and 11 at Hampden Park (Scotland's national football stadium) 14. Sixty-one cases took place during old firm matches (Rangers and Celtic) while 39 involved other football teams playing against one of the old firm teams, most notably Heart of Midlothian and Celtic (n = 19) 15. The details of the remaining 74 cases that did not occur in a football stadium are quite diverse and can only be presented in very broad categories. Thirty one cases occurred in relation to an old firm game, 16 cases occurred as a result of the accused(s) targeting an individual wearing football regalia, 10 cases involved the accused(s) stating his/her support for Rangers Football Club whilst targeting a Celtic supporter and 4 cases involved the accused(s) stating his/her support for Celtic Football Club whilst targeting a Rangers supporter.

3.21 When examining the police reports, it was interesting to note that in only 16 of the 532 cases the police set out the motive of the offence. From these 16 cases the police detailed the motive of the crime according to the accused in 4 cases and according to the victim/witnesses in 12 cases. The police reports also detailed the police officer's view of the motive in 5 cases. Thus, it is clear that documenting the motive of the crime is not standard practice across police forces and, where the motive of the crime is documented, it is not done in a consistent way.

Section 3: Cases Known to Proceed to a Guilty Verdict

3.22 The proceedings for 385 (out of 532) cases involving one accused with one charge were able to be ascertained (see paragraphs 2.4-2.6 for an explanation of this approach). A total of 276 (72%) of these cases resulted in a verdict of guilty. These guilty cases were analysed and it became evident that similar trends were emerging in comparison to all the cases considered during this period:

  • In 95% of the cases the accused was charged with, and found guilty of, committing a breach of the peace. In 176 of these cases the corresponding disposal was ascertained for all charges with 68% of offenders receiving a fine for their conduct 16.
  • The majority of these cases occurred in the west of Scotland with 45% of those accused residing outwith Glasgow and 32% residing outwith Glasgow and Lanarkshire.
  • The types of place where the incidents occurred were widely dispersed with 26% percent on a busy main street, 23% in a football stadium, 14% in a residential area, 13% in a domestic dwelling, 7% within or outside a pub or club, 7% in a police car/station, 3% within a mode of public transport and 7% in other locations.
  • The accused were predominantly male with an average age of 30. The most predominant age group is 21 - 30 for males, while 36% of all accused were between the ages 21 - 30, 25% between 16 - 20 and 22% between 31 - 40.
  • In 67% of cases the conduct was viewed as derogatory to Roman Catholicism while 30% of the cases were viewed as derogatory to Protestantism 17.
  • From the 276 cases found guilty, a total of 324 individuals/groups were targeted. In 45% of the cases the target was the surrounding community, a civilian was targeted in 17% of the cases and a worker in 3% of the cases. The police were subjected to religious aggravation in 34% of the cases.
  • In 133 of these cases the police explicitly stated whether alcohol was involved in the incident; the accused was under the influence in 125 of these incidents while the accused was not under the influence in 8 incidents.
  • In 33 cases (12%) the police stated that the incident was in relation to a march or parade.
  • A football match or the support of a particular football team featured in 103 of the 276 cases examined here, of which 63 (61%) took place within a football stadium. The remaining 40 cases were widely dispersed in a pub or club, residential area or a private household.

3.23 As the data source for the guilty cases was merged with an extraction from the COPFS data base, it was possible to look at the aggravation code used by the police or the Procurator Fiscal and the corresponding information collected from the case papers. What became evident when analysing this data was an inconsistency in the reporting and use of religious aggravation codes for offences related to football. There were disparities in the number of cases related to a football match or the support of a particular team based on information collated from the police reports and the corresponding religious aggravation charge codes in the COPFS data base. Table 5 provides details of the religious aggravation codes for the 102 incidents related to football according to the text of the police reports. In 37 cases it was clear within the narrative of the police case papers that the incident was related to a football game or the support of a particular team yet the relevant charge used only the religious aggravation instead of the religious/football aggravation. Furthermore, there were 8 incidents where the offence was located within a football stadium yet the religious aggravation code did not reflect this. It is unclear why these disparities occurred and it is impossible to know if the charge code was inputted incorrectly by the police or amended, if at all, by the Procurator Fiscal.

Table 5 Cases Related to Football (police case papers) by Religious Aggravation Code (Crown Office database)

Aggravation Code

Number

%

Religious Prejudice

37

36

Religious Prejudice Football

65

64

Grand Total

102

100.0

Note to table

  • There is one case not presented due to data protection.
  • Source: Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service (2005) Sectarian/Religiously Aggravated Crime: An analysis of the first 6 months (Edinburgh: Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service) and the police case papers for all cases between 1 st January 2004 to 30 th June 2005