Offensive Behaviour at Football Act Closer to Repeal
Holyrood’s Justice Committee discussions on Tuesday sparked stage two of the Offensive Behaviour at Football Act 2012 repeal, following claims by the Scottish government that have failed to decrease sectarianism in Scotland.
Two Scottish Government amendments to delay the repeal were also voted down by six to five.
Labour MSP James Kelly tweeted: “My bill to repeal the football act passed stage two this morning, meaning that it’s now only a matter of weeks before this discredited law is taken off the book.”
MSPs marked the first stage in January, with 65 votes to 61 in favour of repealing the football act.
The Scottish government invested £12.5 million into the campaign which was supported by the Advisory Group.
However Recent statistics from The Procurator Fiscal Service show the amount of sectarian crimes in football has increased by 30% in Scotland. There was a total of 377 sectarian crimes reported in 2016-17 under the Offensive Behaviour at Football Act and Threatening Communications Act 2012. This amounted to more than half of all reported charges that year.
The amount of charges increased after the new legislation came into play. Further research by the Procurator Fiscal Office reported 229 charges in Glasgow, which was the highest number in 2016-17.
David Scott, the campaign director of anti-sectarian charity Nil By Mouth said: “Glasgow certainly is the hot spot for sectarianism in Scotland, with more than half of the arrests for sectarian offences in the country taking place there.”
Scott is pushing for talks with the government to help them resolve this problem.
“We suggest that Glasgow city council sits down and talks with us as we would be happy to share our educational resources with them.
“In certain cases, giving some people a £200 fine rather than a sentence is better. It would also be beneficial of the courts to send offenders to organisations such as Nil By Mouth for a different, rehabilitating approach.”
A report by the Scottish government revealed that alone, The Scottish Cup Final contributed to 45% of the 299 total charges of threatening behaviour.
Marian Maclean, operation inspector of Football Coordination Unit for Scotland (FoCUS), said: “Matchday is our biggest challenge when dealing with crowd safely. If we see somebody commit an offence, we have to be conscious of how to deal with it. Sometimes we might go and deal with the individual then and there, but other times you can’t because you would destabilise the crowd.
“Our greatest challenge is when a large section of an entire stand sings a particularly offensive song and you are only able to arrest maybe two or three people.”
“Matchday is our biggest challenge when dealing with crowd safely. If we see somebody commit an offence, we have to be conscious of how to deal with it.”- Marian Maclean
James Reid, operation sergeant of Police Scotland said: “We often use sections of the Offensive Behaviour at Football Act and Threatening Communications Act 2012 if someone is threatening or offensive in a religious, racial, and homophobic way.”
Maclean said: “The way it works is that parliament write the laws, and police implement them, so we contribute to it in terms of our experience and how it works in practice.”
When asked about the repeal, Maclean said: “It’s not really for us to say what the best model is. We policed football before the legislation came in and if it does go, we police football after it disappears.”
The final vote is in the hands of MSPs and will be announced shortly.