Supporting the commitments of the Football Summit's Joint Action Group, the Scottish Government announced in May 2011, its intention to introduce new legislation creating new offences to tackle offensive behaviour at football games and communications which threaten or incite serious harm to others. The Bill was introduced to Parliament on June 16, 2011.
The 'offensive behaviour' offence will cover offensive or threatening behaviour which would be liable to incite public disorder at or on the way from or to a football match and will extend to public places such as pubs where football matches are televised.
It criminalises offensive or threatening behaviour which would be likely to incite public disorder at football matches, and at any public place where a football match is being broadcast. This will target expressions of hatred of a person or group of persons because of their religion, race, ethnicity, nationality, ethnic or national origins, sexual orientation, transgender identity or disability.
Penalties relating to this offence cover a wide range of offending behaviour that may be appropriately dealt with by fixed penalty notices or community payback orders, to serious incitement to public disorder which requires to be tried on indictment. The maximum penalty is five years imprisonment plus an unlimited fine when tried on indictment and 12 months imprisonment plus a fine of up to £10,000 when tried summarily.
The 'threatening communications' offence will cover threats of serious harm and threats intended to stir up religious hatred made via e.g. leaflets and posters, banners and t-shirts as well as more conventionally by mail or email or on the internet, including blogs, twitter and facebook.
It will criminalise:
- communications of any kind to one or more persons which make threats of serious violence to a person, or incite the commission of acts of serious violence to a person
- communications of any kind to one or more persons which make threats intended to stir up religious hatred
- will apply to postings, messages etc., displayed in, or primarily intended to be seen in Scotland
The offence is subject to a maximum penalty of five years imprisonment plus an unlimited fine when tried on indictment and 12 months imprisonment plus a fine of up to £10,000 when tried summarily.
It is the intention of the Scottish Government to have this Bill passed by the end of the year. The extended timetable will allow for further consultation and evidence gathering with key stakeholders. This will allow the Scottish Government to refine the Bill based on consensus agreement between the Government, the Scottish Parliament and stakeholders.