Legislation designed to tackle sectarian behaviour at football matches is working well, according to Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill.

The Scottish Government brought in the Offensive Behaviour and Threatening Communications (Scotland) Act on 1st March 2012, to give police and prosecutors additional powers to crack down on sectarian songs and abuse at and around football matches and threats posted on the internet or through the mail.

The Lord Advocate, Frank Mulholland QC, has said that the legislation is being used to good effect by police and prosecutors. So far 89% of the cases reported to the Crown Office have been prosecuted, and the conviction rate stands at 83%. Figures from the first full year of the Act are still being collated and analysed and should be published after the end of the football season.

The Scottish Government intends to commission an independent evaluation of the legislation, examining how the new powers have been used on the ground, including whether there have been any barriers to successful implementation of the legislation. It will also explore the impact the legislation has had on the attitudes and behaviour of Scottish football fans.

“The charge and conviction rates for people arrested under this legislation show that it is working well,” said Mr MacAskill. “This legislation was introduced in response to Scotland’s police and prosecutors, who told us they needed greater powers to take a hard line on sectarianism associated with football.”