A Labour MSP has officially lodged proposals to scrap the Offensive Behaviour at Football and Threatening Communications Act 2012 (OFBA). James Kelly, a Labour MSP, said the “illiberal” law was flawed on several levels and had “damaged trust between police and football fans”. He further stated that it “needlessly criminalised football fans and has done nothing to tackle sectarianism”. Under the legislation those found guilty could face up to five years imprisonment.
The Act was introduced in 2012 in an attempt to crack down on sectarianism and other football related offences but all four of Holywood’s opposition parties pledged to repeal the act in their election manifestos.
The Conservatives’ Justice Spokesman, Douglas Ross said he was “keen to work with all parties to get rid of this ridiculous legislation” while his opposite number in the Liberal Democrats, Liam McArthur said “ The law has been criticised by everyone from fans on the terrace to senior judges. The majority of the legal profession were opposed to the act when it was first introduced. Knee-jerk reactions to serious social problems rarely deliver the sort of change we need and that is what we have seen with the OFBA.” “It is time that this law was sent for an early bath.”
However, an SNP spokeswoman said “The act sends out a clear message that Scotland will not tolerate hate crime-and it gives prosecutors an additional tool to tackle this behaviour.”
A report published earlier this year revealed that there were only 79 convictions in 2014/15 under the legislation compared with 15,580 convictions for breach of the peace. There have been in total 231 convictions since the law has been enacted and even the government admitted conviction rates were “very small”.
James Kelly argues “Sectarianism in Scotland has existed for hundreds of years but the government’s approach was to try to fix it in 90 minutes.” “Now that the SNP have lost their majority in the Scottish Parliament we can scrap the Football Act and get real about tackling sectarianism off the pitch, in our classrooms and communities.”
Posted by Marcus Downie who is starting his traineeship with us in September.