What the Crown Office wants, the Crown Office gets : A chance to arrest more Catholics to even up crime stats. The Scottish Government have earlier this morning issued a Press Release in clear confidence the SNP majority will wave through the Offensive Behaviour at Football and Threatening Communications (Scotland) Bill which aims to deal with Scotland’s secret sectarian menace by allowing Scottish Police Forces to arrest & prosecute more Roman Catholics to even up the sectarian statistics after an earlier set of figures revealed most sectarian crimes in Scotland targeted Catholics. The historical data on sectarian crimes in Scotland which would have revealed even more shocking figures of religious hate crimes against Roman Catholics & other religious minorities was so shocking, political orders were issued to the Crown Office to destroy it before the substance of the figures could be debated by academics & politicians who called for its release.
Sectarianism is the unmentionable problem of Scotland which First Minister Alex Salmond’s SNP Government are afraid of accurately documenting due to their own assessment that revealing the sheer scale of Scotland’s sectarian problem may skew the predominantly Catholic European Union’s view of an independent Scotland asking for EU membership. There is also now no doubt Sectarianism in Scotland has grown because successive Scottish administrations from ALL political parties have systematically failed to deal with sectarianism due to its appearance and possibly participation in by all levels of Scottish society including members of law enforcement & the justice system.
While some many welcome today’s attempt to tackle the problems, many observers feel the issue of tackling sectarianism via the new bill has become one of pure spin rather than tackling actual crime & sectarian sentiment which appears to run rife in Scotland. The passage of the bill has seen the First Minister and the SNP Government genuflecting before Strathclyde Police & Scotland’s Crown Office & Procurators Fiscal Service (COPFS) to give dream powers which criminalise everything short of standing in silence watching a football match.
The Scottish Government’s Press Release, issued prior to the debate & vote in the Scottish Parliament.
Scotland must have the courage of its convictions and give the police and prosecutors the additional tools they have asked for to extract 'poisonous songs of hatred' from Scottish football and threats of harm being posted on the internet, Roseanna Cunningham said today.
The Minister for Community Safety was speaking as the Offensive Behaviour at Football and Threatening Communications (Scotland) Bill reaches its final stage in Parliament this week.
The Minister reiterated that the vast majority of football fans at all clubs have nothing to fear from the new laws but said that the 'bigoted minority' who continue to sing offensive sectarian hatred in the name of football and who cause the public disorder which follows it should not be allowed to 'shame Scotland any longer'.
Ms Cunningham said that the experts are firmly behind the Bill and it was now time for 'common sense to prevail'. She said: "Sectarianism shouldn't be part of a modern Scotland and we need to do everything we can to eradicate it once and for all. To put it quite simply, it will not be tolerated. We must remember why we are acting. Songs are being sung at football matches in Scotland which have nothing to do with football and everything to do with hatred, violence and bigotry. Bombs have been sent through the post to individuals because of their links to particular football clubs, and death threats against a football manager posted on the internet. The offensive chanting of a minority of fans has already led to UEFA taking action against two Scottish clubs and the actions of these fans has brought shame on Scotland.
"The police and the Lord Advocate, the most senior law officer in Scotland, have asked for better tools to do their difficult job. The issues we seek to address did not just emerge in the last football season. The status quo which allows poisonous songs of hatred to be sung at Scottish football matches or threats of serious harm to be posted on the internet has gone unchallenged for too long and cannot be allowed to continue. It is time to extract the poisonous hatred from Scottish football. Banter and passionate support for football teams, even passionate opposition to other football teams, is the lifeblood of football - sectarianism and other expressions of hate are not. The experts remain firmly behind this Bill and Scotland must now show the courage of its convictions and take the action needed. Common sense must now prevail. The well-behaved fans of all clubs, who are the vast majority, have nothing to fear from a Bill which will make Scottish football and society better. This comes down to a choice. You can either do nothing and allow the status quo which allows the mindless bigot to thrive or we can take the strong action needed now and send out a message that this behaviour is not going to be tolerated any longer."
Supportive comment for the Scottish Government's proposals:
Assistant Chief Constable Campbell Corrigan, Strathclyde Police: "My view on this is quite clear. I support this legislation because it seeks to deal with a problem that we know that we have. We do have people behaving inappropriately in and around football matches and we do still hear songs being sung that have nothing to do with football and everything to do with hatred, religion and terrorism." (6 October 2011)
Lord Advocate (letter to Justice Committee, 1 November): "I fully endorse the introduction of specific offences relating to offensive behaviour at football matches and threatening communications. The offences will provide an invaluable tool for the police and prosecutors to target and tackle the unacceptable behaviour that has been associated with football." (1 November 2011)
Henry McLeish: "I applaud the legislation because this is besmirching Scotland's reputation. There is no doubt in my mind there are excesses in Scottish Football, a darker side we must get rid of. I make no apologies about that. We have to be tough. If we want this kind of warmer, friendlier game we need to tackle these excesses. And in that that case Alex Salmond is right, this is an embarrassment to Scotland" (8 December 2011)
Ian Galloway, Convener, Church and Society Council, Church of Scotland: "The Bill has been amended and improved; we have been able to engage with it, as have a range of other organisations. The consideration and debate about the issues related to the Bill have been important I think in moving Scotland forward." (December 2011)
Bishop Philip Tartaglia, Catholic Church: "I share the concerns of the Scottish Government that sectarianism should be eradicated from Scottish society. Fears that the wide remit of the 'Offensive Behaviour Bill' might impinge on the freedom to hold and express otherwise inoffensive views appear to have been recognised and are being addressed." (7 October 2011)
Stewart Regan, Chief Executive, SFA: "The Scottish FA welcomes the new Bill as tangible evidence of the success of the Joint Action Group. In particular, we are pleased to see that it covers sectarian and other forms of unacceptable chanting and threatening behaviour." (17 June 2011)
Scottish Premier League: "It is clear that offensive and threatening behaviour has no place in Scottish football and the SPL will continue to work with all members of the Joint Action Group to address this issue. On the day the fixtures for the new Clydesdale Bank Premier League season are announced, we would hope that Scottish football is in the headlines for the right reasons this season." (17 June 2011)
Pat Nevin, football commentator: "I'm personally delighted that the Parliament are going down this direction: it's been a long time overdue for me and the problem has been in Scotland, particularly the West of Scotland for a number of years". (17 June 2011)
Les Gray, Chairman of Scottish Police Federation: "Now, if somebody's going to tell me that the current situation is working fine then these people are living in cloud cuckoo land because it's not working fine."(12 December 2011).
Paul McBride QC: "I think this is the most important legislation to be passed in Scotland in the past 30 years, because it deals with a problem we absolutely have to solve". (18 June 2011)
Craig Brown, Manger of Aberdeen FC and Former Scotland Boss: "I don't think there is anyone who could dispute the benefit of this. This is something that has to be commended." (18 June 2011).
Justice Committee - September 13
SFA: "We have found the joint action group process to be helpful in examining the governance structure of football in the context in which we are meeting. We all want to improve matters and to see a redefining of the acceptable parameters of behaviour within stadia and Scottish football. We are here to give full support to the bill."
Chief Superintendent David O'Connor (Association of Scottish Police Superintendents): "The legislation could be applied to football or beyond football. We have to deal with a variety of legislation - the whole legislative framework must be taken into consideration. However, we are looking for something that will help us and that will be another string to the bow in dealing with the challenges of football."
Written Submissions to Justice Committee by August 26
Association of Chief Police Officers in Scotland Football Sub Group: "ACPOS Football Sub Group fully support the introduction of legislation which is specifically enacted with the intention of tackling offensive behaviour at football. There is clearly a variety of statutory legislation already in existence which can be utilised, however this does not always fit with the variety of different incidents now witnessed throughout the football environment."
Equality and Human Rights Commission Scotland: "We welcome the Scottish Government's commitment to challenging sectarianism in Scotland."
Equality Network: "We welcome the policy intention of the Scottish Government to address the problem of the expression and stirring up of sectarian and other hatred, in relation to football, and to address incitement to violence and hatred through online and other communication".
Detail on Bill:
The Bill provides for two new offences: Offensive Behaviour related to football and Threatening Communications.
OFFENCE A - "OFFENSIVE BEHAVIOUR"
Intended to deal with sectarian and other offensive chanting and threatening behaviour likely to cause public disorder. The offence covers behaviour likely to lead to public disorder:
Expressing or inciting religious, racial or other forms of hatred. Threatening behaviour or behaviour which would be Offensive to any reasonable person. Covers behaviour at and on the way to or from a "regulated football match", which includes league, European and international matches. Definition based on football banning orders (FBO) legislation, which means there is the potential for an FBO to be imposed in every case. Also covers anywhere a match is being broadcast in a public place, and travel to and from such places. Covers a wide range of behaviours with appropriate relevant penalties ranging from fixed penalty notices (£40) and Community Payback Orders to a maximum of 5 years in prison and an unlimited fine.
OFFENCE B - "THREATENING COMMUNICATIONS"
Intended to deal with threats of serious harm and threats which incite religious hatred.
The offence covers:
Threats of serious harm intended to cause fear and alarm, or reckless as to whether they do. This includes implied threats (e.g. the posting of bullets or images depicting serious harm). Threats intended to incite religious hatred. It is a defence that the behaviour was in the situation "reasonable". This is intended to exclude artistic performance etc. Maximum penalty of 5 years in prison and an unlimited fine.
The offence will NOT:
Stop peaceful preaching or proselytising. Restrict freedom of speech including the right to criticise or comment on religion or non-religious beliefs, even in harsh terms. Criminalise jokes and satire about religion or non-religious belief.