THE maximum jail term for sectarian hate crimes will rise from six months to five years under plans being considered by the Crown Office.
Outgoing Lord Advocate Elish Angiolini said also revealed that a specialist unit to tackle sectarianism north of the border would also be set up.
The moves follow growing concern over sectarian tensions at Old Firm games, including the recent confrontation between Celtic manager Neil Lenno
n and Rangers’ Ally McCoist.
Under the plans, online death threats and religious hatred will become an indictable offence, meaning those convicted can receive up to five years in jail.
Such offences are currently dealt with as a summary complaint, limiting punishment to just six months.
Angiolini also revealed that a new football-related breach of the peace charge is set to be introduced, allow Sheriffs to take tougher action against seasoned soccer thugs.
In yet another initiative, Crown officials will review all sectarian offences committed in the past year.
The moves are aimed at calming fears that football-related sectarianism is spiralling out of control.
Lennon is currently receiving round-the-clock police protection and has installed a panic button at his home, following death threats, some of them made online.
Ahead of today’s (Sun) Co-operative Insurance Cup final at Hampden, Rangers and Celtic footballers were briefed on their responsibilities by a senior police officer.
Celtic’s lawyer, Paul McBride QC, backed the moves, saying it was right that those who “spread terror, threats or lies on the internet are dealt with severely by the courts”.
Angiolini also called today for a shake-up of the courts system to take account of the Facebook generation.
She said young people were used to get information in short, sharp bursts and that English –style opening speeches should be considered in court cases.
“We have to look at how we communicate as effectively as possible,” she said.