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SFSA at Holyrood re Offensive Behaviour at Football Act on Tuesday

Date: 2nd October 2017

Note: Offensive Behaviour at Football and Threatening Communications (Repeal) (Scotland) Bill
Key points as provided by Holyrood committee team – You can watch this debate
 The Football Act has a badly drafted, condemned piece of legislation which has driven a divide between fans and the police
 Leading fans organisations, human rights groups and legal experts have condemned the legislation
 The Law Society has said that repealing the Act would not create any gap in the law
 Over 75 percent of individuals and half of responses to the Justice Committee’s call for evidence were in favour of repeal
 Over two-thirds of responses to the consultation were in favour of repeal, the biggest response to a member’s bill consultation in Holyrood’s history
 The Act was politically motivated and a PR stunt, pushed through to grab headlines by a government party with a majority, the first ever law of its kind to be passed without cross-party support
What topics you can expect the committee to cover
Your general view of the Bill to repeal the Football Act
 We do not believe the Football Act works. It has been condemned in terms of its impact on freedom of speech and it disproportionately targets young, working class men.
 There is little evidence of it tackling offensive behaviour, and the Police have said that they have to turn to existing legislation in order to prosecute people under parts of the Act.
 Fans organisations support its repeal: fans feel targeted by the police, and feel that it is unjust that there is legislation which specifically targets supporters.
Whether you believe pre-existing legislation would cover some types of behaviour which the Football Act attempts to deal with
 Leading legal organisations have said that existing legislation is satisfactory and that there would not be a gap in the law as a result of the repeal.
 The Law Society states in its submission that it does not believe repealing the legislation would leave any gap in the law, and that “if all charges brought under the 2012 Act could have been charged under the existing or common
law […] it follows that that the 2012 Act has not been fundamental to tackling sectarianism”.
Whether behaviour has changed as a result of the Act’s introduction
 The impact of the legislation has been broadly considered to be negative, with fans groups reporting that fans do not feel that behaviour has changed in a positive way.
 STV news reported that government ministers had been told by security at football grounds that behaviour had deteriorated as a result of the Act, that fans sought to rebel against the police.
What alternatives there are in pursuit of the aims of the act
 Increased funding for community groups and campaigns to tackle sectarianism
 A shift to education-based combating of bigotry and offensive behaviour
 Targeting bigotry works in classrooms, not terraces
What other organisations have said
 The Glasgow Bar Association supports the full repeal of the Football Act, and rejects claims that it would create a gap in the law.
 Leading human rights group Liberty states that the Act should be repealed and that it is a “heavy-handed solution to a problem already targeted by existing criminal law provisions” which “represents a real threat to freedom of speech”.
 Official fans group Supporters Direct Scotland reports that 74 percent of fans backing the proposal to repeal and, as well as members not believing that there has been any reduction in sectarianism.
 BEMIS is “deeply sceptical that the Act has contributed to challenging hate crime” and that “it is the wrong approach to tackling hate crime in Scotland

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