The Law Society of Scotland has provided written evidence on the proposed repeal of the
Offensive Behaviour at Football and Threatening Communications (Scotland) Act.
Among other conclusions, the Society believes the 287 Scots fans charged with offensive behaviour in 2016 could have been dealt with under existing laws. Accordingly, “it follows that the 2012 Act has not been fundamental to tackling sectarianism”.
Labour is currently piloting a Bill through Holyrood which would repeal the Act.
The Society takes no view on the issue of repealing the Act but believes “that offensive behaviour related to public disorder is likely to be caught by the substantive criminal law which was in existence prior to the 2012 Act and remains in force now.
“In 2015/16, 287 charges were brought under Section 1 [offensive behaviour at regulated football matches] of the 2012 Act and we are of the view that all of them could have been prosecuted under pre-existing legislation.
“If all charges brought under the 2012 Act could have been charged under the existing common law or various existing statutory provisions then it follows that the 2012 Act has not been fundamental to tackling sectarianism.”
In November 2016, Labour, Liberal Democrat and Green MSPs supported a motion calling for the repeal of the Act by 64 votes to 63.
Celtic Football Club has opposed the current law, and a survey by Supporters Direct Scotland (SDS) found 74% of respondents feel the Act should be repealed.
Victim Support Scotland and Police Scotland support the legislation.
A Scottish Government spokesman has said: “As groups representing victims and equalities campaigners have also indicated, repealing it would send entirely the wrong signal to both football and wider society.”
You can see the Society's evidence at: https://tinyurl.com/y8fdl4oq