Offensive Behaviour at Football and Threatening Communications (Scotland) Act 2012

An overwhelming majority of Scots support stronger action being taken to tackle sectarianism and offensive behaviour.

The full results show:

  • 89% of Scots agree that sectarianism is offensive
  • 89% of Scots agree that sectarianism is unacceptable in Scottish football
  • 85% of Scots agree that sectarianism should be a criminal offence
  • 91% agree that stronger action needs to be taken to tackle sectarianism and offensive behaviour associated with football in Scotland
Act Purpose

The Offensive Behaviour at Football and Threatening Communications (Scotland) Act 2012 was passed by the Scottish Parliament on 14th December 2011 and will be enacted on 1st March 2012. The Act criminalises behaviour which is threatening, hateful or otherwise offensive at a regulated football match including offensive singing or chanting. It also criminalises the communication of threats of serious violence and threats intended to incite religious hatred, whether sent through the post or posted on the internet. The Act will only criminalise behaviour likely to lead to public disorder which expresses or incites hatred, is threatening or is otherwise offensive to a reasonable person.

The Act introduces two new offences, Offensive Behaviour at a regulated football match and Threatening Communications.

Offensive Behaviour

This offence will cover sectarian and other offensive chanting and threatening behaviour related to football which is likely to cause public disorder. It covers:

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Tackling Sectarianism

  • expressing or inciting religious, racial or other forms of hatred;
  • threatening or offensive behaviour;
  • will also cover behaviour of players and managers;
  • applies at, on the way to or from a "regulated football match", which includes league, European and international matches involving Scottish teams;
  • "regulated football match" based on football banning orders (FBO) legislation, which means an FBO will be available in every case.
  • also covers anywhere a match is being broadcast, except domestic property.
  • Covers a wide range of behaviours with appropriate relevant penalties ranging from fixed penalty notices (£40) and Community Payback Orders to an unlimited fine and 5 years in prison.
Threatening Communications

This offence will strengthen current law covering threats of serious harm and criminalise threats inciting religious hatred. It covers:

  • threats of serious harm intended to cause fear and alarm, or reckless as to whether it does;
  • implied threats (e.g. bullets or images depicting serious harm)
  • threats intended to incite religious hatred.
  • it will be a defence that the behaviour was in the situation "reasonable", to ensure that artistic performance etc. are excluded.
  • Maximum penalty of an unlimited fine and 5 years in prison.

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.