Friday, 14 June 2013

New Offensive Behaviour Statistics released today - embarrassing flop for the Government

The Crown Office under the Lord Advocate Frank Mulholland and the Scottish Government represented by Roseanna Cunningham have released the statistics for the first full year of the operation of the Offensive Behaviour at Football: Threatening Communication Act 2012 tomorrow (Friday 14 June 2013).  For some weeks now they have been making robust claims that these statistics will show that the Act is working. 

We are currently producing a detailed analysis of the statistics which are far from impressive in supporting the case for the continuation of this piece of legislation.  However, we can say already that all that has effectively happened is that there is a fall in those convicted under the Religiously Aggravated Offences (Section 74) and an almost equal rise in those convicted under the Offensive Behaviour Act.  Not much return on the £1.8 million pounds allocated to the Football Coordination Unit Scotland who police this Act.

In addition to this, what the statistics will never tell us, but which we as football supporters are only too aware of, is the following:
  • The number of young people with no previous criminal record or activity who have come into contact with the police as a result of this Act
  • The smaller number of young people who have endured 3 or more trips to courts in all parts of Scotland only to have the charges dropped by the Crown or to be found Not Guilty
  • The number of young people who have had their details taken unlawfully by the police
  • The number of football fans of all ages who have to run the gauntlet of police officers in order to attend football matches which are entirely devoid of any crowd trouble and have been for decades.
  •  The number of football fans of all ages who are photographed, videoed, monitored and intimidated by the Football Co-ordination Unit Scotland, the recipient of £1.8 million of government funding, all spent on harassing private citizens because they happen to be football fans.

This is the human cost of the Offensive Behaviour Act however, a press conference will be held in Glasgow next week in which we will give a detailed analysis of the figures produced by the government as well as the stories behind the statistics, which illustrate how this Act has produced a style of policing about which all citizens should be concerned.

Leading lawyer Paul Kavanagh, of Gildeas Ltd said today:

There is an old saying lies, damn lies and then statistics.

While every right minded individual would agree that there is no place in Scotland for bigotry of any kind whether by race, colour or religion the success of the Offensive Behaviour at Football and Threatening Communication 2012 introduced by the current administration raise interesting questions.

87 convictions, how many arrested? How many proceeded to trial? How many pled guilty without legal representation or advice? How many with no previous experience of the judicial system? What has been the cost of implementing the act, policing it etc?

How do we measure success? Do we measure it with regard the number of convictions? Do we measure it with regard the huge number of young football fans forced by police unlawfully to give them their personal details? Do we measure it by the decreasing number of football fans attending games or do we eventually measure it by taking a poll of young football fans and their voting intentions at next year’s referendum and whether they will vote for independence?

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