'No gap in the law' for prosecuting sectarian football chants

A major review has concluded that no legal gap has been created by repealing the Offensive Behaviour at Football and Threatening Communications (Scotland) Act.

May 31, 2018
By Serena Lander

The independent review, conducted by retired judge Lord Bracadale, looked at whether the current legislation on hate crime is appropriate and consistent and whether new categories should be introduced to protect the public.

It recommended the introduction of aggravating factors of gender and age and broadening the list of offences to include conduct that ‘stirs up’ hatred.

Lord Bracadale also said that the offence of racial harassment and conduct (section 50A of the Criminal Law (Consolidation) (Scotland) Act 1995) should be repealed as race is the only characteristic group to have a standalone offence. He argued that the continued use of section 50A caused confusion to the public and complicates records kept by Police Scotland.

The review found that if these recommendations are taken on board then hate crime at football matches should be covered by existing laws.

The review report said: “In these circumstances, I am satisfied that there is no gap in the law and am content to leave the issue of sectarianism to be taken forward in the manner suggested by the Justice Committee and currently being implemented by the Scottish Ministers.”

It also suggested that sectarianism cannot be easily defined as a religious, political or cultural concept but that many aspects of sectarianism are beyond the scope of the review. The Scottish Government has set up a working group looking to define sectarianism.

The Offensive Behaviour at Football and Threatening Communications Act was introduced in 2012 to combat sectarian behaviour at football games but was repealed in April after MPs believed it unfairly targeted football fans.

The review also angered campaigners hoping to see misogyny included as an aggravating factor.

Lord Bracadale considered that some police forces in England, such as Nottinghamshire, have decided to record misogyny as a hate crime. However, he concluded that the definition of misogyny is too broad, but that hate crime aggravated by gender should be statutory.

Minister for Community Safety Annabelle Ewing said: “I am grateful to Lord Bracadale and his team for completing such a thorough piece of work.

“We agree that Scotland’s hate crime laws should be consolidated into a single piece of legislation. The Scottish Government will use this report as a basis for wider consultation with communities and groups across the country on how to bring forward new legislation that is fit for the 21st century.

“We have been consistently clear that legislation alone will not achieve the inclusive and equal society that we aspire to, however, the laws passed by Parliament do form a clear basis for what is and is not acceptable in the communities we are elected to serve. We will continue to work with communities across Scotland to build trust and understanding and, wherever possible, prevent hate crime from happening in the first place.”

Related News

Copyright © 2024 Police Professional