You may be aware that there have been considerable efforts by many people both inside the Scottish Parliament and out to get rid of the dreadful Offensive Behaviour Act once and for all. You may also be aware that we have very high hopes that those efforts will bear fruit in the not too distant future. However, while we wait for the day that football fans are treated the same under Scots law as every other citizen, the Police Service of Scotland and the Crown Office Procurator Fiscal Service are continuing with the appalling hounding of football fans using the OBFA and other pieces of legislation.
Cases which would never has seen the light of day in any other circumstance, except those which are deemed to be ‘football-related’, are prosecuted to the fullest extent. The impact on those caught up in this nightmarish legislation can be devastating. For that reason, we intend to keep our foot on the neck of the authorities until this stain on the reputation of Scotland is removed. Here is just one of the reasons why.
So as not to identify her and cause her further hassle in her life and work, we will call the young woman Ms X. Ms X was arrested in November 2014 as she queued to enter a football stadium to support her team. In her own words, she picks up the tale:
I attended the game with my 2 cousins we joined the “queue” but it was chaos no organisation at all. A police officer shouted and gestured for my cousin and myself to get to the back of the queue which we duly did. He then approached me and asked if I had been drinking to which I replied I had had a couple. He then said I was “steamin” to which I responded I was not. He then said he could arrest me and I said for what, at that point he said “that’s it hands behind your back!”
As you can imagine, I was shocked but I did not react. Both my cousin and myself asked under what legislation I had been arrested; we got no response. My cousin asked for their badge numbers and they refused. I was then marched, in handcuffs, around the stadium which felt to me like the police were trying to make a show of me which was humiliating in itself and lets just say I was put in the back of the van not too gently!
I was then taken to the police station and my DNA and finger prints were taken. I was released 3 hours later. Still to this point I did not know why I had been arrested as I was not charged at any point.
When I received my court citation I was shocked as I did not think the police would do anything else. However, I was even more taken aback when I read the charge sheet and summary of evidence. It stated that I was drunk trying to enter a football stadium. The evidence said that I was so drunk I was slurring my words, that I was singing into the face of a police horse; that I stumbled into the police officer: that I refused to desist from the stadium and that the officer felt threatened that I would become violent.
After about 6 months they offered me the ‘chance’ to pay a fiscal fine. I refused to do this as I was not going to admit to being guilty of something I did not do.
After almost two and half years and four court appearances, my case was dismissed in court. I was told that ‘the procurator fiscal put her pen through it’. At each of the previous court dates, each of fiscals who were in court stated that they didn’t think the case should be in court but because it was football related they had no choice. Just to note, I have never been in a single bit of bother in my life.
As well as the stress of appearing in court, I faced lengthy disciplinary proceedings at work which caused a lot of stress as I did not know how significant the proceedings would be. I then received a warning from work for bringing my work into disrepute and for my conduct even though I was adamant I had done nothing wrong and was arrested unlawfully.
The amount of stress this has caused my family and myself has been overwhelming. It affected my work, I didn’t want to go back to the football, I was very emotional and lost quite a lot of weight. I knew I had done nothing wrong but that seems to go for nothing when you are an ordinary person going to watch the football.
This story, terrible as it is, is not unusual and has been replicated up and down the country for five years now. In the coming few months, FAC will be calling on you all to support various initiatives in support of the Repeal Bill as it proceeds through Parliament. Please remember the story of this young woman and do whatever you can to help. Next time it could be you or your daughter/sister/girlfriend/wife/friend.