If you have been charged with a sectarian offence, a racially aggravated offence or any other 'hate crime', McSporrans can help. Our expert criminal defence lawyers based in Edinburgh have an excellent track record in defending clients charged with offences said to be aggravated by religious, racial or homophobic prejudice.

Following a number of high-profile incidents centred in particular around Old Firm matches and in light of concerns about bilious sectarian postings and threats on social media, the Scottish Government brought forward legislation to deal with what was widely perceived to be a blight on Scottish society and culture.

Offensive Behaviour at Football and Threatening Communications (Scotland) Act Defence Lawyers Edinburgh, Scotland

In 2012, the Scottish Parliament passed the Offensive Behaviour at Football and Threatening Communications (Scotland) Act. Amongst other things, this Act criminalises certain behaviour whilst at or watching a regulated football match. The Act is designed to give the police and prosecutors extra powers to crack down on sectarian chanting, singing and abusive behaviour at or near football matches and to deal with threats made on the internet or by post. The Act gives the courts the power to impose a range of penalties including up to 5 years imprisonment and an unlimited fine.

Even though the Act creates new offences, it does not define what is to be regarded as 'offensive'. With this in mind, it may be possible to fall foul of the Act even though you do not believe that what you have said or done is offensive. You don't even have to be at the match or near the stadium to commit an offence – the Act gives police the power to arrest someone suspected of committing an offence even if they are watching a match in a pub or travelling to or from the game.

The courts are being encouraged to impose harsh sentences for these types of offences so if you are charged with an offence, you should contact us without delay.

The Offensive Behaviour Act has attracted much criticism. Indeed, one Sheriff in Tayside memorably described the legislation as "mince". More than 200 people were charged with offences under the Act in the first year after it was passed. Many of these individuals ended up with a criminal record because of an underprepared or inadequate defence, or by failing to take the proper steps and advice at the right time.

Offensive Behaviour at Football & Sectarian Offences Lawyers

The Act creates two distinct new offences. The first of these is 'Offensive Behaviour'. This is intended to deal with behaviour which may cause public disorder. Examples of this type of behaviour include:

• Expressing or inciting religious, racial or other forms of hatred.
• Threatening behaviour or behaviour which would be offensive to any reasonable person.
• Offensive or abusive behaviour at and on the way to or from a "regulated football match", which includes league, European and international matches.

This definition is based on Football Banning Orders (FBO) legislation, which means there is the potential for an FBO to be imposed in every case.

The 2012 Act also covers behaviour wherever a match is being broadcast in a public place, and travel to and from such places.

The Act covers a wide range of behaviour and imposes penalties based on the seriousness of the alleged offence. The Act gives the court the power to impose penalties ranging from fixed penalty notices (to the value of £40), Community Payback Orders (formerly known as Community Service and Probation) and custodial sentences.

Threatening Communications - The Law

The second category of offences relates to Threatening Communications. This is intended to criminalise the making of serious threats, including threats which are may incite religious hatred.

This offence covers the following types of behaviour:

• Threats of serious harm intended to create a state of fear and alarm. There need be no actual fear or harm caused. It is sufficient that the accused is reckless as to the consequences of his or her actions. This category of offence includes 'implied' threats such as the posting of bullets to individuals or the posting of threatening images online.
• Threats which are intended to incite religious hatred.

It is a defence to a charge under this section of the Act to argue that the conduct was 'reasonable'. This is intended to ensure that things like artistic performances are not included.
If you are convicted of an offence under this section of the Act, you can be sentenced to five years in prison or given an unlimited fine.

Contact McSporrans Criminal Defence Lawyers Edinburgh

If you have been charged with an offence relating to offensive behaviour at a football match in Edinburgh, Glasgow, Falkirk, Kirkcaldy, Alloa, Livingston, Stirling, Dundee, Kilmarnock, Ayr or elsewhere in Scotland, our solicitors can help. We have an excellent track record in defending clients in Sheriff Courts and the High Court up and down Scotland. Call us today on 0131 557 9151 (24hrs) for a free, no obligation discussion. Alternatively, request a callback or fill out our online enquiry form and we will be straight back in touch with you.


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McSporrans Criminal Lawyers Edinburgh Scotland