Steerpike, a fellow poster on Random Thoughts Re Scots Law, made a number of claims about Catholics and sectarianism. No one is accusing Steerpike of deliberately misinterpreting the data on sectarianism but what you are about to witness is the public demolition of Steerpike’s position, as it is dismantled piece by piece, until it lies in an incoherent heap and is confined to where it belongs: in the bin.
CLAIMS BY STEERPIKE
Steerpike makes two claims:
- That “the stats don’t lie, 16% of the population carry out 40% of sectarian crime”; and
- Catholics are “hardly victims”.
I will show both these statements to be false (he also makes a subsidiary claim that “it is Catholics who are more likely to victimize a Protestant than the other way round”, but this is dependent on his first claim being true).
Sectarianism is associated with “religious prejudice” and is covered under the Criminal Justice (Scotland) Act 2003, which makes it an offense under section 74 of that Act to show “malice or ill-will” towards members of a “religious group, or of a social or cultural group with a perceived religious affiliation”. This is the main legislation under which someone is charged with religiously aggravated crime.
The Offensive Behaviour at Football and Threatening Communications (Scotland) Act 2012 also covers religious prejudice but widens the remit to include other forms of prejudice, such as racism, homophobia and prejudice against those with a disability. The Offensive Behaviour Act criminalises behaviour that is “threatening, hateful or otherwise offensive” and is likely to incite public disorder: Section 1 covers offensive behaviour at football and Section 6 covers threatening communications (including the Internet). This Act is controversial because it now brings political expression, and other areas of free speech, within the reach of the long arm of the law.
So, it is perfectly acceptable for someone to oppose religion, or a particular religion, but if they behave in a manner, in words or deeds, that shows “malice or ill-will” or is “threatening, hateful or otherwise offensive” then they are making themselves vulnerable to prosecution.
Sectarianism is primarily dealt with under section 74 of the Criminal Justice (Scotland) Act 2003 but could also be tackled through the Offensive Behaviour at Football and Threatening Communications (Scotland) Act 2012. That is why sometimes the Scottish government refers to the blight of “sectarianism and offensive behaviour”. Some crimes of a religiously aggravated nature appear under the Offensive Behaviour at Football and Threatening Communications (Scotland) Act 2012, as shown above, and are covered in the report Hate Crime in Scotland 2012-2013 (Crown Office & Procurator Fiscal Service:http://www.crownoffice.gov.uk/media-site/latest-news-from-copfs/327-hate-crime-in-scotland-2012-13) but alleged religious denomination of the victims is not revealed. The main authoritative report on sectarian crime as religious prejudice is the annual report Religiously Aggravated Offending in Scotland, produced by the Scottish Government Social Research unit.
There is a further complication in that Steerpike bases his claims on a report that is out-of-date. Steerpike referred to the report Religiously Aggravated Offending in Scotland 2011-2012 (http://www.scotland.gov.uk/Resource/0040/00408745.pdf). The Scottish government has published the figures covering the period 2012-2013 for religiously aggravated crime (Religiously Aggravated Offending in Scotland 2012-2013: http://www.scotland.gov.uk/Resource/0042/00424865.pdf). This article, for comparative purposes, will use the figures from the report that Steerpike used – the 2011-2012 report – but will also show that his claims are still false when applied to the more recent report.
In terms of religious denomination, the 2001 census reveals the Scottish population at that time was 5,062,011. Of those, 803,732 (16%) were Catholics, while 2,146,251 (42%) defined themselves as Church of Scotland. While the census did not allow for “Protestant” to be a religious option (using CofS instead), statistics recording religiously aggravated crime use the term “Protestant”. If one equates “Protestant” to “Church of Scotland” then in 2001 there were 2,146,251 Protestants in Scotland. A significantly large slice of the Scottish population – 28% – had no religious affiliation.
There was an updated report in 2008: The Scottish Household Survey. As reported by Professor Callum Brown, a leading academic on Religious and Cultural History at the University of Dundee, the Church of Scotland denomination dropped from 42% to 35% and Catholic “identification remained stable” (http://www.scotsman.com/news/letter-declining-faith-1-1523942).
The 2011 census (http://www.scotlandscensus.gov.uk/documents/censusresults/release2a/StatsBulletin2A.pdf) gives the most recent figures on religious denomination within Scotland. The Scottish population was calculated at 5,295,403. The Catholic percentage stayed at 16%; the Church of Scotland population fell to 32%; and those describing themselves as non-religious jumped to 37%, the largest group in Scotland. These percentages translate into the following population figures:
|Church of Scotland||32% of 5,295,403 = 1,694,528|
|Catholic||16% of 5,295,403 = 847,264|
|Non-religious||37% of 5,295,403 = 1,959,299|
ANALYSIS: CLAIM 1 –
“The stats don’t lie, 16% of the population carry out 40% of sectarian crime”
For the avoidance of doubt I will repeat, verbatim, Steerpike’s claim: “the stats don’t lie, 16% of the population carry out 40% of sectarian crime”. There are no statistics to show that “16% of the population carry out 40% of sectarian crime”. This “statistic” does not appear in any government publication. Steerpike is equating the 16% to Catholics and the 40% to Protestants: “To put the 40/16 percentages into perspective, Catholics are punching two and half times their weight, and this tells me the toxic influence…”
For Steerpike’s claim to be true then 16% of the Scottish population must have committed, in the period for which we have reliable data, religiously aggravated crime and, further, they must be Catholic. The 2011 census recorded the population of Scotland standing at 5,295,403, of which 16% represents a figure of 847,264. Coincidentally this figure represents the Catholic population. Were 847,264 religiously aggravated crimes committed in Scotland and were Catholics the offenders?
The statistics on religiously aggravated crime – from the Religiously Aggravated Offending in Scotland 2011-2012 report used by Steerpike – shows that the total number of religiously aggravated crimes amounted to 876 (the figures add up to more than 876 because some conduct was directed at more than one religion). Here are the main findings in tabular form:
a % of attacks
The report reveals that there were 876 charges of which 509 (58.1%) were against those believed to be Catholic by the alleged attacker (i.e. “Catholics” were the victims) and 353 (40.3%) were against those believed to be Protestant by the alleged attacker (i.e. “Protestants” were the victims). Steerpike’s claim is immediately false because there were 876 main charges of religiously aggravated crime, not 847,264, irrespective of the religious status of the offender.
Let’s put this into perspective. There were 876 religiously aggravated charges in a country containing 5,295,403 citizens. That means that 876/5,295,403 X 100 = 0.0165% of the population were charged with committing religiously aggravated crime. Of those 876 offences, 353 (40%) were against Protestantism. The percentage of the population therefore responsible for 40% of religiously aggravated crime in that period was 353/5,295,403 X 100 = 0.0066%. That means that 0.0066% of the population “carry out 40% of sectarian crime”. In reality some of those committing sectarian crime would have been charged under the Offensive Behaviour at Football and Threatening Communications (Scotland) Act 2012 but the majority of charges for religious prejudice are brought under the Criminal Justice (Scotland) Act 2003. In addition, Steerpike should be talking about “charges” and not assume that all those charged were convicted.
For argument’s sake, let’s assume that all those charged were convicted and for emphasis let’s contrast Steerpike’s false claim against the statistically accurate position (focusing on the stats from the report he uses):
“16% of the population carry out 40% of sectarian crime”;
“0.0066% of the population carry out 40% of sectarian crime”.
Steerpike was wrong to claim that “16% of the population carry out 40% of sectarian crime” but it is quite a dramatic shift in emphasis and impact from the real figure (even assuming that all those charged were found guilty) – 16% of the population down to approximately 0.0066%. In fact, the real number is so small that it is almost impossible to detect on a comparative graph:
The more recent report on religiously aggravated crime – Religiously Aggravated Offending in Scotland 2012-2013 – gives the number of those charged with religious prejudice at 687, of which 388 (56.5%) were against Catholicism and 199 (29%) were against Protestantism. Applying Steerpike’s logic to these updated figures would give the following statement (let’s call it a “Steerpike”): “the stats don’t lie,16% of the population carry out 29% of sectarian crime” [meaning Catholics against Protestants].
Is that true? 16% of the population is 847,264, coincidentally the size of the Catholic population. 29% of sectarian crime was recorded at 199. Clearly 847,264 people did not commit 199 acts of religiously aggravated prejudice. 16% of the population did not carry out 40% of sectarianism crime in 2011-2012, as he claimed, nor did 16% of the population carry out 29% of sectarian crime in 2012-2013.
Let’s find out anyway what percentage of the population carried out 29% of the sectarian crime in 2012-2013. The percentage of population that carried out 29% of sectarian crime = 199/5,295,403 X 100 = 0.0037%. Here is the correct statement: “the stats don’t lie, 0.0037% of the population carry out 29% of sectarian crime”.
That’s as far as Steerpike can go. He can only claim that in 2011-2012, “the stats don’t lie, 0.0066% of the population carry out 40% of sectarian crime (against those they believe to be Protestant)” and that in 2012-2013, “the stats don’t lie, 0.0037% of the population carry out 29% of sectarian crime (against those they believe to be Protestant)”. He cannot claim to know that Catholics are responsible for this crime. Why not? That question is answered in the next section.
The Police charge sheets and case files do not record the religion of either the accused or the victim. From the descriptions contained in the Police records the government researchers only attempted to deduce the religion that was attacked by the accused. The annual report on religiously aggravated crime – the very one read by Steerpike – goes out of its way to emphasise this very point: “The religious beliefs or affiliations of the accused or the victims of the offence are not formally recorded anywhere in the report as they are not relevant to the definition of the crime in the law” (Religiously Aggravated Offending in Scotland 2011-2012, p. 13).
Let’s be absolutely clear. The police did not formally record the religious status of the victim or the accused. It is not required for a prosecution. The researchers did not even attempt to deduce the religious status (Catholic, Protestant, non-religious, etc.) of the accused. What the researchers did was very simple: from the Police records and the description of the incident the researchers extracted the religion that the accused thought was associated with the victim. The research upon which Steerpike bases his claims focused purely on the religion under attack. There was no empirical data about the religion of the accused. They may have been Catholic, Protestant, non-religious, etc. No one knows.
That is why there are no statistical tables on any government report showing percentage figures related to the religious status of the attacker. That is why there is no government statistic that claims “16% of the population carry out 40% sectarian crime” (meaning Catholics) or that “it is Catholics who are more likely to victimize a Protestant than the other way round”. No one knows what percentage of any population group carried out what percentage of sectarian crime against particular religions.
For Steerpike to apportion blame for the incidences of religiously aggravated crime he would need to have access to data, and related statistics, that identifies the religious persuasion, or non-religious status, of the accused. No one has recorded that data. Steerpike therefore cannot make any claim about the religious affiliation of those responsible for the sectarian crime. Anything else is pure speculation on his part.
That is why Steerpike cannot allocate a percentage figure – 40% or any other number – against any of the religions for the sectarian crime committed and that is why he cannot support his inflammatory subsidiary claim that “it is Catholics who are more likely to victimize a Protestant than the other way round”. He does not know the religious status of the attacker and has no empirical data upon which to make such a claim.
He may consider that it is “obviously” Catholics that are always hostile to Protestants and vice versa. That position is statistically untenable without the data, even though the two main religious groups targeted are Catholics and Protestants. For example, a Rangers fan could find himself the subject of an abusive tirade about being a “dirty H** b*****d” etc. by a Celtic fan and the Celtic fan might not be a Catholic. Given that many of the charges were for religiously aggravated crime against the Police, the situation could easily have arisen where a (Protestant) Police Officer was verbally abused as a “dirty F****n b*****d” by a Protestant. One cannot simply assume the religious status of the accused based on the religion that is under attack. Someone might declare a hatred of all “Irish Catholics, even dead ones” but to assume that the person making the hateful remark is Protestant may be false – he/she might have no religious affiliation at all. No one is claiming that these examples fall within the definition of sectarian crime – that would be for others to determine – but at the very least they show that the finger of blame for expressed hostility towards a particular religious group cannot be pre-determined.
Although this article is on the issue of crime related to religious prejudice, it is worth commenting that The Offensive Behaviour at Football and Threatening Communications (Scotland) Act 2012 casts its net wider than the Criminal Justice (Scotland) Act 2003, including for example offensive behaviour against disability. Steerpike, for instance, commented of another poster “… I am convinced you are a spastic…” When others expressed outrage at the idea that someone can equate those who suffer from cerebral palsy with an insult, his “apology” was equally disgraceful: “I am an intelligent, level headed, logical person who never posts nonsense, my post is highlights the need for forgiveness, and I forgive coatbrig for being an utter spastic.” On the receipt of any complaint it would be for the Police to decide if that comment breaches The Offensive Behaviour at Football and Threatening Communications (Scotland) Act 2012, but when it has been pointed out to someone that others find their behaviour grossly offensive and they choose to repeat their conduct then that would hinder a claim of unintentional offense. Worse, he confirmed his intention to cause offense: “It was supposed to be an offensive slur, I used it in its correct context.”
Returning to Steerpike’s claims about Catholics, he has also ignored the expected statistical contribution from the non-religious group and that is a major failing on his part, and they form 37% of our population. He seems to have looked at the figure of 353 racially aggravated attacks on Protestants, assumed Catholics to be at fault (without any evidence), observed that the number 353 is 2.5 times that expected from a Catholic population (2.5 X 140 is approx. 353) and then arrived at his unsupported conclusion that Catholics are responsible for “40% of sectarian crime” and “it is Catholics who are more likely to victimize a Protestant than the other way round”. Without government data on the religious status of the accused, Steerpike cannot make any claim at all about what who is victimising whom outwith normal statistical forecasts. He therefore has no evidential basis on which to claim “it is Catholics who are more likely to victimize a Protestant than the other way round” because there is no evidence either way. All that we have is data about the intended victims.
There is a further dimension to Steerpike’s false claim, particularly when conjoined with his jibe that Catholics are “hardly victims”. He is not only claiming, without any evidence, that it is Catholics who are responsible for all religiously aggravated crime against Protestants, he is also claiming, without any evidence, that it is the whole Catholic population that is responsible for the such crimes against Protestants.
For the avoidance of doubt I will quote him word for word: “16% of the population CARRY OUT [my emphasis] 40% of sectarian crime”. This is a view that he repeats regularly: “As I said, 16% of the population ARE RESPONSIBLE FOR [my emphasis] 40% of sectarian crime… hardly victims in my mind”, etc. The percentage of Catholics in Scotland is 16% and he clearly states that it is 16% of the population who “carry out 40% of sectarian crime”; “are responsible for 40% of sectarian crime”, etc. He is not even referring to 16% of the Catholic population, which in itself would still be wildly inaccurate. He is clearly maligning the whole Catholic community: “16% of the population carry out 40% of sectarian crime”. It is a defamatory slur against the Catholic community and one he should retract immediately.
Steerpike’s claim that “the stats don’t lie,16% of the population carry out 40% of sectarian crime” is clearly wrong and has been proved to be so. We know the percentage of the population that carried out 40% of sectarian crime in 2011-2012 (it is 0.0066%), not 16%. He was also wrong to assume that he knew the religion of those accused of sectarian crime: he does not. He was also wrong to blame the whole Catholic population for the sectarian crime committed against Protestants.
No one knows what percentage of the various disparate population groups are responsible for sectarian crime: we only know the percentage of intended victims.
Posted by JohnBhoy
Part 2 to follow tomorrow morning