Tuesday, November 22, 2011
'Free expression clause' for the Offensive Behaviour at Football and Threatening Communications (Scotland) Bill is ‘get out of jail free card’
Have you played Monopoly?
It is a board game in which you try and build a property empire.
One of the cards if you land on the appropriate spot is ‘get out of jail free’.
And that is what is about to be inserted into the Offensive Behaviour at Football and Threatening Communications (Scotland) Bill.
A clause protecting freedom of expression has been added which every lawyer preparing their case will home in on as the bedrock of their defence.
My client was fully in accordance with the law when calling people bastards because it was part of his right to freedom of expression enshrined in law.
‘Case closed and move there along please’!
So, what is the point of continuing with the Offensive Behaviour at Football and Threatening Communications (Scotland) Bill?
I would argue that it is at best poor law making and at worst incompetent.
Law must be built on firm building blocks like doing the necessary research, but the Offensive Behaviour at Football and Threatening Communications (Scotland) Bill has been rushed through to make sure it is in place to marry up with the football Calendar.
So, armchair warriors can sit tapping away on their computers insulting and abusing people’s religious beliefs.
Down at the football armed with pork pie and bovril, you can still get huckled if the Police deem it necessary.
Either the law applies everywhere or it applies nowhere, something defence teams will home in on and exploit.
MSPs on Holyrood's Justice Committee voted for the ‘get out of jail free’ clause during the second of three stages needed before the Offensive Behaviour at Football and Threatening Communications (Scotland) Bill can become law.
There are already provisions to deal with the problems of football matches disorder in law, as such this law is nonsense, ill judged, ill conceived, rushed and exceptional poor without the benefit of empirical research of a sufficient nature being done.
The Scottish Government has produced a law based on two football managers arguing in a football stadium.
Community Safety Minister Roseanna Cunningham, who is steering the Bill through Parliament, said:
"The intention of the amendment is not to prevent legitimate religion discussion and debate. It aims to prevent the kind of communication we saw last football season when individuals were threatened with serious harm. It is important that we remember that's what this is about."
Try looking up the Protection from Harassment Act 1997.
Labour MSPs have adopted the position of abstaining from discussion, in protest at the Scottish Government's approach to the legislation.
That is certainly a tactic, why give any credence whatsoever to shit law making.
The committee's only Liberal Democrat MSP also abstained from all but one key area of the bill.
The SNP has proposed two new offences through the Bill.
The first offence targets sectarian and threatening behaviour at and around football matches which is deemed likely to cause public disorder.
The second offence relates to threats or serious harm which are intended to stir up religious hatred on the internet or other communications.
The first offence can be dealt with under already existing public order legislation and the second is even less impressive because it relies on someone making a subjective opinion which any good lawyer will drive a truck through.
Juries will be reluctant to convict someone as we already seen at the John Wilson trial of being sectarian because it doesn’t sit well with the Scottish psyche. That is why this bill is poor conceived because it is written by middle class people incapable of understanding a certain section of the working class mentality as it relates to a football game atmosphere.
No, stepping backwards in every sense.
The Holyrood Parliament would be greatly enhanced if we had real politicians instead of party hacks doing such puerile work.
The Campaign for Human Rights at Glasgow University