Open letter to the Minister for Community Safety and Legal Affairs

Earlier this month (4th June) three representatives of FAC  met with the Minister for Community Safety, Paul Wheelhouse and four advisers.    Our main purpose in requesting the meeting was to find out from him precisely how the Review of the Act required by Parliament would be conducted and in what forum we would be able to present our evidence.

Mr Wheelhouse was less than clear on this point but indicated that once he had read the Evaluation Report he would make a statement to Parliament.  He gave no indication of when that might be other than before the end of the current session.  We followed this meeting up with a letter in which we said, among other things:

We remain wholly opposed to this Act and, as such, we are unable to assist you in trying to make it work by encouraging supporters to comply with its terms.  Even if we were willing to do so, we have no way of knowing what that would entail since the Act gives no clarity as to what might constitute a breach of this Act.  The very low conviction rate is, I would suggest, clear evidence that the courts are not learning how to operate the Act as you appear to believe.

Mr Wheelhouse must have known precisely when the report would be published because  it was published eight days later (12/6/15)  in a well-orchestrated media campaign with accompanying video presentations and publication of one of the most skewed polls in political history.  Then, with one day’s notice to Parliament, he made his statement to the Chamber on Tuesday 16/6/15.  We were lucky enough to be able to have a number of us present at Holyrood at such short notice that day.  There was, in the end, few surprises in his statement which contained a continued defence of the Act based on a misinterpretation of the Stirling evidence and a reliance on the ridiculous YouGov poll.  What did come as a surprise to those of us present was to hear the Minister imply to the Chamber that FAC supported the Diversion from Prosecution scheme (see full details in article below).   We have today written to the Minister in the following terms to ask for a retraction:

Dear Mr Wheelhouse

In your statement to the Chamber last Tuesday afternoon (16/6/15) you inferred that Fans Against Criminalisation supported your plan to introduce a Diversion from Prosecution scheme.  You then, in answer to a direct question from Michael McMahon (whom I have copied in here), replied that we had indicated support for this scheme in our meeting with you on 4th June.
I would remind you that the only thing we indicated support for in our meeting was the abolition of the Offensive Behaviour Act.  At no time did we indicate support for this scheme, indeed it was not specifically mentioned.  You asked if we would be able to assist you in finding ways to divert young people from the actions which have resulted in some being criminalised and I answered, ‘If you are asking us to tell young people not to do things which we don’t think should be criminal to begin with I can tell you that we will not be doing that’.  How that can then be interpreted as us supporting this project is a matter of some bewilderment for us.
We would appreciate it if you would, in as public a manner as you made the comment, issue a correction and confirm that your Diversion from Prosecution scheme does not have our support.
For the avoidance of doubt our view is that the best way to prevent the criminalisation of young football fans is to abolish this heinous piece of legislation and to direct the attention of the Police Service of Scotland to the detection and prosecution of real criminals and the enforcement of laws for which there is a consensus.
We will publish any reply received.

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