Thursday, 9 May 2013

Open Letter to Superintendent McAllister of Football Coordination Unit Scotland

Fans Against Criminalisation

c/o Celtic Trust
PO Box 2066
Glasgow G32 2AX

Superintendent Stephen McAllister
Football Coordination Unit Scotland
Police Service of Scotland
9 May 2013

Dear Superintendent McAllister

We write to draw your attention to a possible infringement of the Offensive Behaviour at Football and Threatening Communications (Scotland) 2012 Act.  You may well have seen press reports of an unpleasant incident which took place in a bar in Edinburgh on the evening of Wednesday 1st May 2013.  The incident involved a person who was clearly under the influence of alcohol being extremely abusive to two other persons who were in the bar at the same time.  We understand that the aggressor and the victims were both members of opposing organisations, cultural or political groups you might say, who have very deep-seated antipathies to one another and who regularly engage in slanging matches in public, often to the deep distress of ordinary members of the public.

You may also be aware that on the evening in question there was a Champions’ League fixture between Barcelona FC and Bayern Munich which was being shown live on television.  Indeed we are also led to believe that the game in question was being shown in the venue at which the aforementioned verbal attack took place. 

We are sure that you are very familiar with the provisions of the Offensive Behaviour at Football and Threatening Communications (Scotland) Act 2012 – given that your Unit has been funded to the tune of £1.8 million over the last two years it would be rather remiss of you if you were not.  However, at the risk of teaching our granny to suck eggs, we refer you to Section 1 of the Act which states that:

A person commits an offence if, in relation to a regulated football match—
(a) the person engages in behaviour of a kind described in subsection (2), and
(b) the behaviour—
(i) is likely to incite public disorder, or
(ii) would be likely to incite public disorder.’

Section 1(2)e of the Act, indicates that the behaviour referred to could be, among other things:

‘other behaviour that a reasonable person would be likely to consider offensive.’

Section 2(3) of the Act further states:

The references in subsection (2)(a) and (b) to a regulated football match include a reference to any place (other than domestic premises) at which such a match is televised; and, in the case of such a place, the references in subsection (2)(a) and (b) to the ground where the regulated football match is being held are to be taken to be references to that place.’

In all the circumstances, it would appear to us, that the behaviour to which we wish to draw your attention, could clearly be construed as ‘behaviour that a reasonable person would be likely to consider offensive’; it took place while a regulated football match was being shown and therefore meets the terms of Section 2(3) as outlined above; and, under Section 1b(ii), outlined above, ‘would be likely to incite public disorder’.  Heaven forfend, if large members of their respective organisations had been present, an almighty rammy could have ensued!

We are unaware if any of your officers were present at the incident but we hope not as, by their own evidence in courts up and down the country, they are known to be rather sensitive by nature and very likely to be offended by events such as those described here.

If you require further details of the incident you will find it at this internet link:

We look forward to hearing that you are pursuing Ms Cunningham with all your newly acquired powers and that her case will make its way through the judicial system with the same degree of inconvenience to her as young football fans suffer on a regular basis.  We are not aware that you can impose a public house banning order on anyone but it would seem to be a good idea in cases like this.  Can we suggest that you consult with someone in the Scottish Government about adding this in to the legislation?  You could have a chat with the Minister for Community Safety and Legal Affairs for instance?  Then again, perhaps not...

We look forward to your early response to our comments on this very serious matter.

Yours sincerely

(original signed on behalf of the organising committee of FAC)