Glasgow & West Scotland

Two men arrested over internet Old Firm 'hate comments'

Online hate site
Image caption Efforts are being made to clamp down on Old Firm internet abuse

Two men have been arrested after raids by police targeting people suspected of posting "sectarian and hate filled" comments on websites.

A 23-year-old and a 27-year-old are in police custody after the raids in the early hours of the morning.

The arrests were made in Paisley and Dalmarnock in the east end of Glasgow. Both men have been charged with sectarian breach of the peace

Police are targeting about 50 people in the operation.

The two men who have been arrested are expected to appear at Glasgow Sheriff Court on Tuesday.

Supt Kirk Kinnell, from Strathclyde Police's anti-violence directorate, said: "I would like to deliver a clear message to those who continue to make hate-filled comments and cause distress to decent members of the public, that we will pursue you relentlessly until this behaviour is stopped.

"Some people seem to think that they are anonymous online or can hide in a crowd, but technology can also be used to bring the police directly to you wherever you are."

The raids, which police said were ongoing, target postings of religious and racial hate comments about Celtic manager Neil Lennon and Rangers striker El Hadji-Diouf.

It is understood the addresses were identified with the help of the Internet Service Providers Association, as part of an operation which has been going on for several weeks.

Crunch game

Strathclyde Police said that some online postings were already being taken down but that officers had captured the electronic evidence for individuals being targeted.

The suspects range in age from their early teens to their 50s.

The force said it was not able to shut down offensive websites as that was outside their jurisdiction.

Image caption Police said the raids were ongoing across the Strathclyde force area

An extra 1,000 officers will be out in Glasgow on Sunday for Celtic and Rangers last game of the season.

It has been reported that officers had "at least 50" targets connected to comments about various individuals, including Lennon and El Hadji-Diouf.

Lennon has endured sectarian threats against him throughout his career as a player and manager at Celtic and was the target of a parcel bomb campaign, which also saw devices sent to QC Paul McBride and MSP Trish Godman.

A number of youth players for various Scottish clubs have also been disciplined for comments they made online.

Speaking ahead of Sunday's game, Lennon said: "I've had this for 10 years but I don't want to say you get used to it, because you never do.

"It's been with me during my time as a player, my time as a coach and my time as a manager. But it is not going to deter me from doing what I want to do."

'Spew hatred'

Mr McBride, who has acted for Celtic Football Club, told BBC Radio 4's Today programme that the problem was being fuelled by websites encouraging people to commit acts of violence.

"The internet appears to be a driver for individuals to come together and spew their hatred and bile out," he said.

"And I'm afraid it's resulted in people dying. People are being stabbed in a sectarian way in Glasgow. As a person who works in the High Court as a QC every day of the week, I see the result of sectarian crime."

First Minister Alex Salmond said there should be "no hiding place" for those responsible for sectarian abuse on the internet.

He said: "We also have to have key legal changes which make convictions in that area, because of corroboration, more possible, but we have already done that for different types of offences, for example sex crimes through the internet.

"It can certainly be done for sectarian crime."

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