Following the introduction of the Offensive Behaviour at Football Threatening Behaviour Act, the member organisations of FAC (CSA, Green Brigade, ARCSC, and AICSC, Celtic Trust) agreed that the role of the organisation would be to collect data for use when the Act is reviewed in 2014 and to operate the Legal Defence Fund to assist anyone unfairly charged under the Act. However, recent events surrounding the policing of Celtic fans – especially at away games – and the concerns that these have given rise to, led to a meeting of FAC being convened last night (Monday 26/11/12) where we were joined by a representative of an Irish cultural organisation.
Recent cases of fans being charged for really ridiculous reasons; the heavy policing and searching of supporters’ buses and blanket searching of fans (in grounds where this is a departure from normal practice) on the instructions of the Match Commander (based on ‘intel’ from Strathclyde Police); statements from police officers which indicate a concerted focus on Celtic fans and other worrying developments were discussed.
It was agreed that as a first step we need to inform fans of their rights. We are aware of a number of cases of fans pleading guilty, having been given no proper legal advice, just to save themselves the hassle of repeated appearances (often at courts some distance away). We will be producing cards which will give details of your basic rights which will be distributed through the organisations and also at away games.
We need to step up the message that we are calling on all fans who have been charged under the Offensive Behaviour Act to contact us to a) give us all the details for our database so we can fight this Act in 2014 and try to get it off the statute books and b) get advice and assistance where required.
We will be producing a template form which you can fill in and that will be downloadable from all the sites of the organisations involved; any other Celtic site which wants a copy to put on their site just contact the email@example.com or FAC on firstname.lastname@example.org .
Those of you who prefer not to go online can contact us by giving your contact details to the Cairde na h’Eireann shop in the Gallowgate which is opened at weekends or to the GB stall in the foyer of the Celtic Club in London Road on match days.
We have some other longer-term plans which will go on in the background in preparation for the review of the Act. However, in the meantime we call on all supporters to get the message out:
If you have been charged under the Act please let us know and let us help you where we can.