There is only a very short time now to ensure that the review of the Offensive Behaviour Act delivers the correct outcome ie repeal of the Act. The review has to be before Parliament by August and given the recess period that might mean June. FAC has asked for meetings with representatives of all parties and one of these has already taken place, with Patrick Harvie, of the Scottish Greens.
FAC continues to press on all sides for a full and thorough review of the Act and we have also written to the Justice Committee Convener, Christine Grahame MSP, to ask her what plans the Committee has to take evidence in relation to the review. We have, as yet, received no response, but will be chasing it up soon.
Meanwhile the assault on the lives and civil liberties of young football fans continues apace. A recent Appeal Court judgement in an OB case, based on false evidence from a police officer, seems to leave no room whatsoever for Sheriffs to make sensible decisions based on the facts before them. This will, we hope, be subject to a further appeal beyond Scotland where we expect it to have a fair hearing.
A complaint has been made to the Procurator Fiscal regarding the evidence given by the officer. Dawn raids on the homes of young people also continue and lives , employment and studies are disrupted. So what does this mean for you? Well, it means that now more than ever it is important for everyone, no matter what team you support or if you don’t support any team at all but just care about the rights of people to go about their lawful business without unwarranted interference from the police, to step up to the penalty spot.
- It is absolutely vital that you contact your MSP – no matter what party – and ask them to ensure that there is a full and thorough review and that football fans are allowed to directly convey their experience of the Act to politicians before any vote.
- Please keep an eye out for a public event which will take place between now and the end of the season. The Celtic fixtures have not been particularly helpful in this regard, given that Celtic fans have been the most vociferous in opposition to the Act, but a date and time for a large, public event will be decided soon. It is absolutely crucial that there is a big turnout at any such event to show the Scottish Government that the public expect a full and thorough examination of this Act.
If we do not seize this opportunity to get rid of the Act then we may be saddled with it for some time to come with many more young people criminalised for their identity or for their support for their team. We know that this Act is not just used against Celtic fans, or indeed fans of the Rangers, and representatives from FAC have been supporting fans of other clubs too. However, the Law Lords who delivered the Appeal Court Judgement made clear something which politicians have been very reluctant to admit but which FAC and its constituent organisations have long known: The main, but not exclusive, focus is on the behaviour of certain Celtic and Rangers fans with their long standing attachment to opposing factions involved in the politics of Ireland, and Ulster in particular. There you have it! The Act was created to stop anyone here having a political view, and expressing it, on the politics of the land from which many of us came and to which many of us hold a continuing attachment. It is decision time and the decision is to actively oppose this Act now or live with the consequences for some time to come.