Date: 23rd October 2019
By Charlie Parker of The Times
Homeowners around Hampden Park stadium face having their properties searched without a warrant as part of a crackdown on counterfeit merchandise during the European football championships in 2020.
Officials would be handed powers to seize goods believed to infringe the revenue and brand of Uefa during the competition’s Glasgow fixtures, under a bill tabled by the Scottish government.
The tournament is scheduled to be held in 12 cities in 12 European countries in June and July. Four matches will be played at Hampden as thousands of fans from across Europe arrive.
Human rights experts have condemned plans to hand sweeping powers to Trading Standards officers, who would also seek to stamp out “ambush advertising” and ticket touting in the Mount Florida area of the city. Critics have branded provisional legislation “extreme” and “disproportionate” amid fears that the powers could be abused and breach locals’ rights to privacy.
Chris Carus, chairman of Mount Florida community council, has written to ministers and called for the proposals to be redrafted. “We are concerned at the wide-ranging powers proposed to be available to enforcement officers,” his letter said.
“Provisions for searching persons, vehicles, homes and premises, in some cases without a warrant, and using ‘reasonable force’ are out of proportion to the purposes of revenue and brand protection for Uefa, a corporate body. These provisions should be removed from the bill.”
It added: “Provision for the training and qualification of enforcement officers should be added to the bill. Without any minimum standard of qualification of training, we are concerned that the powers, which are comparable with those available to a fully trained police officer, may be abused. This risk is elevated by the lack of enforcement precedents to which officers may refer.”
Paul Goodwin, of the Scottish Football Supporters Association, said the proposed measures seemed extreme. “It’s over the top — it feels uncomfortable,” he said. “I have never heard of anything like this before, ever.”
Niall McCluskey, a human rights lawyer for Optimum Advocates, which provides referral legal services in Scotland, said that the proposed provisions seemed “entirely disproportionate in the context when what is at stake is revenue and brand protection for Uefa”.
He added: “One wonders why existing trading standards protections are considered to be insufficient. It is of concern that local persons and businesses may suffer if these powers are abused. From a human rights perspective misuse of powers such as these could amount to breach of an individual’s rights under Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights [the right to privacy].
”Uefa said that it undertakes a rights protection programme across all its 2020 host cities and confirmed it was aware of the government’s bill. A spokesman said: “Uefa understands that it contains significant safeguards in respect of enforcement, including that any entry to a private home requires either consent from the individual or a warrant. Uefa also understands that the provisions of the bill, including these safeguards, are materially the same as those that were in place for the equivalent legislation relating to Scotland’s hosting of the 2014 Commonwealth Games.”
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