The Offensive Behaviour at Football and Threatening Communications (Scotland) Act 2012 is relatively new legislation which is now being tested in the courts. The law criminalises behaviour which is threatening, hateful or otherwise offensive at football matches and can include offensive songs and chants.
The Act criminalises communication of threats of serious violence, including threats that are intended to incite racial hatred. This can be through the post, internet, facebook, mobile phone or twitter.
You should be aware that because this is a new Act it is not necessary despite what the police says to you, that you are actually guilty of a crime.
The Act is only intended to criminalise behaviour that is likely to lead to public disorder which expresses or incites hatred, is threatening and or is otherwise offensive to a ‘reasonable’ person.
This is why you require the immediate assistance of a solicitor in football, twitter, facebook crime.
The Act has created two new offences.
One covers behaviour in and around football matches, the other relates to messages sent by post or by electronic means.
Anyone convicted under the new legislation could face a prison sentence of up to five years. Clearly sentences can be severe and you should seek advice straight away from experts in this new area of law.
A number of Human Rights issues may arise. You may be accused of saying something which could be regarded as ‘offensive’ at a football match, or even in for instance a pub watching the TV.
You do not even have to be at an actual football match to convicted under this law.
This is a new law which is still being tested in the courts and as soon as you face problems you should get in touch with our criminal defence solicitors, who are some of the best in Scotland to deal with such matters.
The right to free speech, protected by the Human Rights Act 1998, is not an absolute right. However any interference with it must be shown to be necessary.
Any intrusion on the right to express could have a chilling effect on free speech, whether it be the freedom to sing an age old anthem or express and exchange new ideas.
“It is an integral part of the right – and vital to the lifeblood of democracy – that individuals feel able to express their views (even distasteful and unpleasant views) without fear of criminal repercussion.”
Other football laws
There are a number of laws which already deal with behaviour related to football:-
Section 38 of the Criminal Justice and Licensing (Scotland) Act 2010 already provides for an offence of “threatening and abusive behaviour”.
Section 74 of the Criminal Justice (Scotland) Act 2003 allows for offences to be aggravated by religious prejudice. Football banning orders can be made against individuals convicted of a violent offence which involves a football
The Offences (Aggravation by Prejudice) Scotland Act 2009 allows for an offence to be aggravated by the perpetrator evincing malice and ill-will towards the victim on the grounds of sexual orientation, transgender identity or disability, or where a perpetrator is motivated by such malice and ill-will.
Remember if you are contacted by the police to attend an interview you should not attend on your own, one of our solicitors will attend with you. We will make arrangements to attend any police station with you in Scotland.