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Dealing with football-related offences

The recent case of a Bannockburn man convicted of posting a sectarian message on a social media website has highlighted the continuing problem of offences associated with Scottish football.

According to the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service, William Kilpatrick was jailed for nine months last week in relation to a Facebook message that he had posted, following a Celtic/Rangers football match, which targeted Neil Lennon and was of an offensive, threatening and sectarian nature.

It is the type of case that is dealt with under the Offensive Behaviour at Football and Threatening Communications (Scotland) Act 2012.

The Offensive Behaviour at Football and Threatening Communications (Scotland) Act 2012

The Offensive Behaviour at Football and Threatening Communications (Scotland) Act 2012 came into force on 1st March 2012 and was aimed at stamping out offensive and religious hatred at football matches. 

The legislation was passed in response to calls from Scotland’s police and prosecutors and gave them additional tools to crack down on sectarian songs and abuse at and around football matches and threats posted on the internet or through the mail. 

The Act created two new distinct offences, punishable through a range of penalties up to a maximum five-year prison sentence and an unlimited fine.

Offences under the Act

The first offence targets any hateful, threatening or otherwise offensive behaviour expressed at and around football matches which is likely to cause public disorder, including:

  • Expressing or inciting religious, racial or other forms of hatred.
  • Threatening behaviour or behaviour which would be offensive to any reasonable person.

It covers behaviour at and on the way to or from a “regulated football match”, which includes league, European and international matches. It also covers anywhere a match is being broadcast in a public place, and travel to and from such places.

Communication of threats

The second offence relates to the communication of threats of serious harm or which are intended to stir up religious hatred, whether sent by post or posted on the internet, and covers:

  • Threats of serious harm intended to cause fear and alarm, or reckless as to whether they do. This includes implied threats (e.g. the posting of bullets or images depicting serious harm).
  • Threats intended to incite religious hatred.

Football Banning Orders

Many of those convicted under the Act find themselves not only facing a criminal penalty but a civil order as well – a Football Banning Order (FBO).

FBOs have been around in Scotland since September 2006, and can be imposed by a court upon sentence in relation to an offence which is football related. 

When imposed, FBO’s prevent those involved from attending regulated football matches, and require that they report at a police station in connection with certain regulated football matches. They must also surrender their passports when relevant overseas matches are to be played. 

Contact our Lawyers

If you require advice on defending a football related charge, our Glasgow-based solicitors can help you. Complete our online enquiry form here or come in to see us at one of our offices.

Contains public sector information licensed under the Open Government Licence v2.0