The Appeal Court Restricts the Use of Football Banning Orders

Football banning orders are seen as one of the vital tools in maintaining order at football matches. Whilst widely used in England, they have been slower to be utilised in Scotland, although that appears to have recently changed.
Such an order can be made, it is generally understood, in connection with football related violence, or threats thereof. However, as is often the case perception and reality differ as is shown by the case discussed below.
The issue for the court was whether a “football-related” offence, being one clearly connected to football, but not necessarily to a specific football match, could result in the accused being the subject of such an order. In this case, the offence, admitted by the accused, was of committing a breach of the peace by sending a message of a threatening and offensive nature to a social media site.
The message was posted on Twitter on 14th February 2012. It read:-
“Lawwell needs a bullet. Simples”
Bearing in mind the tortuous definition of “football match” described below, it is of note to see the Appeal Court’s view of how far that extends, and more importantly, where it stops.

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Today the decision of the High Court of Justiciary was issued in the case of MacDonald v PF Glasgow [2012] HCJAC 133.
The Appeal Court, consisting of Lady Paton and Sheriff Principal Lockhart were considering the case of Ryan MacDonald who pled guilty in April 2012 to committing a breach of the peace by sending a message of a threatening and offensive nature to a social media site.

The message was posted on Twitter on 14th February 2012. It read:-
“Lawwell needs a bullet. Simples”

As the court noted:-

“Lawwell” was Peter Lawwell, the chief executive of Celtic Football Club. The message was posted after Rangers Football Club had gone into administration and just after a press conference given by Mr Lawwell during which he made certain comments about the situation. The gist of the comments was that Celtic did not need Rangers, and was not interested in what was going on. The appellant reacted angrily, as described above.

Mr MacDonald was sentenced to a Community Payback Order (level 1) of 70 hours, and to a 3-year football banning order in terms of section 51(4)(b) of the Police, Public Order and Criminal Justice (Scotland) Act 2006.
On sentencing him, Sheriff Wendy Sheehan stated, inter alia:-

“Ryan MacDonald, you pleaded guilty to posting a message of a threatening and offensive nature on a social media site to which the public had access and thereby committing a breach of the peace. This offence took place on 14 February at  approximately 1am. It was the crown’s position that the message  was viewed by the Head of Media & Publishing for Celtic FC and that the message was viewed and re-tweeted by 9 others. Fortunately the message does not appear to have incited any further response from members of the public and I am advised that you removed the message from Twitter the following day.

If you did not realise then, then I am sure that you realise now the unacceptability of your behaviour. The message you posted was of a highly threatening and offensive nature. There is no place for this type of behaviour in our society. Such remarks could lead others to act in a similar way and provoke hostility in others.

The Sheriff also noted he had lost his job as a result of his tweet.
Mr MacDonald appealed against the football banning order on the basis that the order was incompetent as the statutory provisions did not extend to the circumstances of the offence.
He also argued that there were no reasonable grounds to believe that the making of a football banning order would help prevent violence or disorder at or in connection with any football matches and that if the order was both competent and appropriate, the period selected by the sheriff was excessive.
The court was able to deal with the matter on the first ground of appeal.

The Police, Public Order and Criminal Justice (Scotland) Act 2006 provides inter alia as follows:

“51 Making of order on conviction of a football-related offence
(1) This section applies where –
(a) a person is convicted of an offence; and
(b) the person was aged 16 or over at the time the offence was committed.

(2) Instead of or in addition to any sentence which it could impose, the court which deals with the person in respect of the offence may, if satisfied as to the matters mentioned in subsection (3), make a football banning order against the person.

(3) Those matters are –
(a) that the offence was one to which subsection (4) applies; and
(b) that there are reasonable grounds to believe that making the football banning order would help to prevent violence or disorder at or in connection with any football matches.

(4) This subsection applies to an offence if –
(a) the offence involved the person who committed it engaging in violence or disorder; and
(b) the offence related to a football match

(5) Where the court does not make a football banning order, but is nevertheless satisfied that the offence was one to which subsection (4) applies, it may declare that to be the case.

(6) For the purpose of subsection (4)(b), an offence relates to a football match if it is committed –
(a) at a football match or while the person committing it is entering or leaving (or trying to enter or leave) the ground;
(b) on a journey to or from a football match; or
(c) otherwise, where it appears to the court from all the circumstances that the offence is motivated (wholly or partly) by a football match.

(7) The references in subsection (6)(a) and (b) to a football match include a reference to any place (other than domestic premises) at which a football match is being televised; and, in the case of such a place, then reference in subsection (6)(a) to the ground is to be taken to be a reference to that place.

55 “Football matches” and “regulated football matches”

(1) In this Chapter, reference to football matches –
(a) are to association football matches; and
(b) are to matches played or intended to be played.”

The Solicitor-Advocate for the appellant submitted that the case “demonstrated the dangers of social media. People could act impulsively without thinking, and post their views and thoughts on line for everyone to read.”

The court was told that the police had been alerted by staff at Celtic Football Club. The appellant had co-operated fully with the police when they called upon him, accepting that what he had done was foolish. He told the police “I was just being an idiot”. He had deleted the message 24  hours after it had been posted, having realised how foolish he had been.

The lawyer for the appellant argued that the Order was not competent.

It was accepted that the appellant’s behaviour was football-related. But it was going too far to say that the behaviour related to “a football match”. While there was a history between Rangers and Celtic in the context of football games played against each other, the present case involved the posting of a message about comments made by Celtic’s chief executive relating to Rangers’ financial difficulties and going into administration. Accordingly the conditions set out in sections 51(4) and (6)(c) had not been satisfied.

Even if the court took the view that the message was partly related to a football match, the message did not constitute conduct relating to a specific football match. There were no grounds to believe that the order would help to prevent violence or disorder at or in connection with a football match.

Finally he argued that, even if competent, the 3 year order was excessive as the appellant had no previous history of causing trouble or violence. He had co-operated with the police. He had expressed remorse, and might be thought to have learned his lesson. It was submitted that, as the maximum football banning order which could be imposed was 5 years, the 3-year ban was too high up the scale. As counsel submitted “While the comment made by the appellant had been a particularly nasty one, directed to an individual, his behaviour was nevertheless different from violence at matches”.
In reply the Advocate Depute for the Crown accepted first, that the words “football match” were to be construed as relating to a particular match on a certain date, and secondly that there was no particular football match to which the message had been directed. But the comments posted had to be viewed in context.

It was argued that the sheriff was entitled to conclude that the relationship between the two clubs centred on football matches, played or to be played. It was open to the sheriff to conclude that part of the appellant’s frustration related to Rangers’ ability to continue to participate in such football matches: that was, after all, the whole point of the organisation. It was not therefore possible to divorce the circumstances from participation in football matches.

Further, as the 2006 Act was designed, inter alia, to cover a situation where rival fans agreed not to attend a football match, but to go to an alternative location to indulge in violence this demonstrated that the focus of the dispute between the clubs was football matches. A football banning order could not prevent a posting on Twitter, but could prevent someone with a certain attitude (which could contribute to disorder at football matches) from entering football stadiums and inciting others. The wording of section 51(6)(c) was broad enough to cover the present circumstances.

The Crown accepted that, had a similar offence been prosecuted in England in terms of section 14(8) of the Football Spectators Act 1989 (an Act upon which some features of the Scottish legislation had been modelled), it would not have been competent to impose a football banning order. The English equivalent provisions required the identification of a particular football match, and a relevant period. However, as those provisions were not repeated in sections 51 to 56 of the Scottish legislation, the sheriff was entitled to impose an order in the circumstances.

In reply Mr MacDonald’s Solicitor-Advocate referred to the Explanatory Notes published with the Police, Public Order and Criminal Justice (Scotland) Act 2006, and in particular paragraph 87. The Notes, he submitted, tended to suggest that the Crown had to establish a link between the behaviour and a football match (and not “football matches” in the wider sense). In the present case, the motivation was wholly related to Rangers being placed in administration, and not to any particular football match.

Decision

Section 55(1) of the Police, Public Order and Criminal Justice (Scotland) Act 2006 provides that references to football matches are references to “matches played or intended to be played”. Section 51(1) to (4) provides that a football banning order may be made where a person is convicted of an offence involving violence or disorder, the offence being “related to a football match” (section 51(4)(b)). An offence relates to a football match where, inter alia, ” … it appears to the court from all the circumstances that the offence is motivated (wholly or partly) by a football match” (section 51(6)(c)). Paragraph 87 of the Explanatory Notes accompanying the 2006 Act explains inter alia:
” … the court will need to find some link between the behaviour and a football match. This could include, for example, where groups of rival supporters do not go to a football match but instead meet at a different place for a pre-arranged fight.”

In our opinion, the circumstances in the present case do not fall within sections 51 and 55 of the 2006 Act. The appellant’s posting of the message on Twitter could not be said to be an offence “related to a football match … played or intended to be played” (sections 51(4)(b) and 55(1)). Nor, in our view, could the offence properly be categorised as “motivated (wholly or party) by a football match … played or intended to be played” (sections 51(4)(b), 51(6)(c), and 55(1)). Thus the imposition of a football banning order was, in our view, incompetent.

In the result therefore, the appellant’s appeal against the football banning order succeeds on the basis of his first argument. It is unnecessary for us to decide the remaining two arguments.

———————————————————

I wonder how many banning orders have been granted in situations where a specific match could not be identified!
As there have been a number of convictions for football related sectarian activity on the internet and message boards, one assumes that, from now on, the Crown, when advising the Sheriff of the power to impose such an order, will show how the offence is related clearly to a football match, and not to football generally. A quick search of the Crown Office website reveals a number of cases where banning orders were made and, stranding the opinion of the court below, they may not actually have been competent.
However, unless any of the parties have already appealed, it is likely that an appeal following upon this case would be deemed to be out of time.
So, general football related violence or threats, which cannot be linked to a specific match, cannot result in a banning order, despite the suggestion from the Scottish Government’s Explanatory Notes, that it perhaps was intended to!
Posted by Paul McConville

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64 Comments

Filed under Criminal Appeals, Criminal Law, Football, MacDonald v PF Glasgow, Public Order and Criminal Justice (Scotland) Act 2006, Uncategorized

64 responses to “The Appeal Court Restricts the Use of Football Banning Orders

  1. Marching on Together

    The fact that making the comment posted on twitter is even an offence is a disgrace to Scotland’s democratic and liberal tradition.

    • The disgrace in Scotland, is that someone can grow up thinking that this type of behavior is acceptable. Is he a pal?

      • Marching on Together

        No, I am not a pal, but a defender of free speech, no matter how obnoxious it may be. Free speech is only worth defending when you find it personally abhorrent. I do not think that what he said is acceptable, but I do not think that such speech should be criminalised. If you are happy for the state to determine what you can think and say, then fine.

        • MrNice

          Said…he did not say anything… he typed! into a public publishing forum.

          free speech is standing in street speaking, not publishing a comment…?

          • Marching on Together

            Free speech in any jurisdiction is clearly both the spoken and written word, as well as many other forms of artistic expression. Glad to hear that you are in favour of press censorship and the banning of books by the state.

    • Brian J

      @ Marching On Together
      Your remark begs the question as to just where, if anywhere, you would draw the line? The rights afforded by our liberal democratic traditions are not and never have been absolute, they have always been restricted by a recognition of the balance required in the need to act responsibly and to protect the rights of other individuals and of society at large.

  2. really MoT? what other public forum do you think should be outwith the criminal law in democratic, liberal scotland?

  3. ecojon

    @ Marching on Together

    Here we go again – I genuinely don’t think that Scotland’s democratic and liberal tradition is under threat from a w*nker who posts threats on the internet.

    But I do believe that Scotland’s democratic and liberal tradition correctly provides for the protection of innocents who have no connection with the person making the threats based on what can only be assumed to be religion, occupation or supporting Celtic.

    And even if the ‘victim’ held no fear of the threat then what about his family and friends who might be upset and worried for him and what about employees at Celtic park have they no rights to be able to go to work without worrying about what in reality IMHO is a sectarian-based threat.

    Scotland’s democratic and liberal tradition will be better served when assh*les finally realise they are responsible for their online comments and should enage any brain cell they possess before letting their bile spew out.

    • ecojon

      I should actually have made it clear that I have no idea what religion, if any, the reported target has and neither do I care but I strongly suspect it may well have been of importance to the convicted poster.

      • ian lewis

        So really for what was regarded as a minor breach of the peace by the court with no sectarian connotations you decide that sectarianism is involved.Is this really the Scotland you want to live in where victimhood and offence is regarded as a given totally without proof?

        • ecojon

          @ ian lewis

          It is difficult at this remove to know all the details especially when you haven’t been in court. But it may well be that in future procurators having lost the banning order sanction may press for something similar to be treated as a sectarian offence. This has its own separate difficulties but I don’t think this is the time and place to go into them.

          You wonder how I reach a sectarian conclusion: Well the accused didn’t know the victim of his tweet other than that he held a senor position at Celtic football club, was a Celtic supporter, could be inferred to be a Catholic by some, and was making comments about Rangers.

          Could it have been his looks, the way he dressed, his accent, the colour of his hair or even his tie? I think we know exactly what the reason was so let’s not have any mock outrage as it makes you look stoopid.

          He had been asked by the media to express a view on Rangers going in to the SFL3 – which was actually favoured by most Rangers fans – and made a fairly bland statement that it was none of Celtic’s business and that Celtic would survive financially in the SPL without Rangers. I actually saw the interview and it was totally non-contentious despite media efforts to whip-up controversy.

          So what sparked-off the need for “X needs a bullet. Simples”. Answers on a mass card pls – don’t forget the asbestos gloves 🙂

          • ian lewis

            It’s not mock outrage-it’s straightforward outrage about people who persist in bringing religion into football and the law.As Celtic’s greatest ever senior official was not a catholic why in these allegedly more enlightened times should it be assumed that Lawwell is -even by some Rangers supporting cretin?Believe me if the authorities could have brought a sectarianism element to the charge they would have done.

    • Marching on Together

      I did not say that it is under threat (yet), but multiply these cases a hundred-fold, with everybody grassing everybody else up for being (mock) offended by what was said, and free speech will definitely be severely restricted and Scotland a poorer place for it.

      You make the huge (and erroneous) assumption that the words tweeted automatically translate into a threat and thereafter into violence. Tell you what, let’s lock up anybody who has ever said in the heat of the moment “I’m going to get you/do you/batter you/kill you”, even though no actual violence was ever really intended.

      Prosecute anyone who does commit actual violence or who conspires to do so, but not such speech by as you call them w*nkers.

      I am surprised that anyone from a Celtic background can actually support such restrictions on free speech – when further restrictions are placed by the state on the singing of songs glorifying and promoting violence in furtherance of a political end, then I will be defending the right of those who wish to do so to sing those songs at Celtic Park, even though it seems that for some, free speech is only for those you approve of.

      • ecojon

        @ Marching on Together

        I’m actually beginning to think you should stop and think before departing from your oft-repeated matra and start trying to tailor pre-prepared arguments to ‘fit’ comments by other posters.

        You state: ‘You make the huge (and erroneous) assumption that the words tweeted automatically translate into a threat and thereafter into violence’.

        If you can’t accept that someone naming an individual, that they don’t know, stating they need a bullet isn’t capable of being seen as a threat then I can only observe we probably come from different backgrounds. I made no comment about the threat being actioned so you also have that bit wrong.

        The ‘Heat of the Moment’ concept, normally applies when there is physical proximity and angry words or actions but not with a wierdo sitting in their bedroom addressing a threat to someone based on their perceived religion, occupation or because they are a Celtic supporter.

        And you are just plain wrong if you think that Heat of the Moment incidents can’t end in murder or serious violence just because there was no intent to commit violence at the start of the incident.

        You say anyone who ‘conspires’ to commit violence should be prosecuted but what are Strathpol to do with a comment threatening a bullet for a public figure. Do they ignore it and get slated if it turns out to be real. Do they just say well the loon has a right to express himself and to prevent them is a denial of their free speech? Or do they take action and investigate and make a judgement as they often do whether to give a slap across the wrist or get someone on the system because they have ‘potential’.

        Or is there some kind of line to be drawn if the person states that it’s a bomb an individual needs or is the line further on where it should only be regarded as a threat when we’re talking about a plane, a train or a bus?

        And what about of the rights of the person named, his family and friends as well as workmates to be able to live their lives and go to work without the stress and fear such threats can create?

        It is actually immaterial what my background is but it’s not Celtic it’s mixed Irish Catholic and Irish Protestant which gives me a wider insight than a lot of people. But it proves that you should never make assumptions about people you don’t know based solely on what football team they support. That is a bigger danger than what you have actually complaining about IMHO.

        I have absolutely no problem about recognising and accepting the historical Irish connection of Celtic and Rangers but IMHO the pride in that particular heritage has to be judged relative to a modern Scottish society as they are both Scottish clubs. And I believe it must be constrained within a footballing concept and not extended to support political issues outwith that sphere and most definitely not to glorify terrorists of any description.

        If that is something that people wish to do then that is a matter for them but not in a footballing context. I happen to believe that a football club should not be used by a small section of its support to support a separate political agenda.

        You talk in very simplistic terms and life is not as easy as that and in view of the amount of bullets and explosive devices which are regularly sent through the mail in Scotland then any talk of someone needing a bullet takes on the connotation of a threat.

        However, where people like you totally lose it in my estimation is when you hand out the warning that unless we let idiots make any threats they want that we’ll end up like North Korea. I don’t know if you have ever lived in a State like that – well I have and worked there as well and if you haven’t I suggest you go and experience it and you’ll realise what a strong democracy we actually have here and how strong our right to free speech.

        But it can never be an unqualified right and there has to be limits or the weak would be ground into the dust by the assh*les and the cops would have to stand by for fear of infringing the civil rights of the agressors at the expense of the well-being of the majority of decent law-abiding citizens. Or perhaps you would suggest the right for everyone to carry a gun to make sure that no one could remove their free speech. Who knows?

        • Marching on Together

          1) If by ‘pre-prepared arguments’ you mean the absolute conviction that in all circumstances free speech should be upheld, no matter how abhorrent, then yes, it is that simple and I plead guilty.

          2) “If you can’t accept that someone naming an individual, that they don’t know, stating they need a bullet isn’t capable of being seen as a threat then I can only observe we probably come from different backgrounds.” I have had a bomb threat made against me many years ago for a public position I expressed on what could be perceived as being on one side of the sectarian debate, so I do have some personal experience of this. Didn’t change my view though, only strengthened it.

          3) “I made no comment about the threat being actioned so you also have that bit wrong.” In our previous debate on the subject a couple of weeks ago you clearly conflated words and deeds.

          4) “not with a wierdo sitting in their bedroom addressing a threat to someone based on their perceived religion, occupation or because they are a Celtic supporter.” Let’s lock up all internet weirdos and bampots, eh, for expressing speech that is unacceptable to some?

          5) As regards Heat of the Moment situations you state that it “normally applies when there is physical proximity and angry words or actions”, which is correct, and this can go on to lead to violence. If so it should be prosecuted. It does not always lead to violence though, and if everyone was locked up for such comments, the courts would be jammed and the prisons doubled in size. However in this case, there is no heat of the moment consideration to be taken into account.

          6) “but what are Strathpol to do with a comment threatening a bullet for a public figure” The tweeter did not threaten a bullet. A threat from him implies that he would do it himself. He did not tweet, “Lawwell needs a bullet and I’m going to do it” or similar.

          7) You clearly from your post believe that pro-IRA songs should be sung at Celtic Park, and I agree with you on that. However, I would argue that if some there want to sing such songs then they should be allowed to do so. Your and my background, whether ethnic, religious or cultural, is irrelevant to this. We both recognise though that part of the Celtic tradition has been the singing of such songs. You seem happy for the state to ban their singing, whereas I am not.

          8) “you hand out the warning that unless we let idiots make any threats they want that we’ll end up like North Korea” We have already gone down the road of restricting free speech in the UK in a myriad of different ways, and unlike you, I recognise that it is a series of small steps for the state to push and push and push the boundaries, to appease the most vocal lobby groups, who do not wish to be offended. Eventually, speech criticising government officials or elected leaders is restricted, and our democracy has shrivelled. You are placing a frog in a pan of cold water and gradually bringing it to the boil, and the frog does not know any better until it is too late.

          Those who claim they are in favour of free speech, but then want to apply all sort of restrictions to other people’s free speech to reflect their own moral values and beliefs, and to ‘protect’ those who they define as ‘vulnerable’ based on their own prejudices, are not actually in favour of free speech at all.

          9) “there has to be limits or the weak would be ground into the dust by the assh*les” You clearly have no concept of the difference between behaviour which is constrained by the mores of society and the people around you, and behaviour which is banned by the state. Just because there is no state-imposed restriction on who you can offend by your speech, does not mean that you then go out and do so.

          • Martin

            @ MoT

            The existance of Paul’s blog and the many contributors to it, is as good an argument for free speech as you are likely to find. We have freedom of speach and more accurately freedom of expression.

            It’s a done deal and we are lucky to have it.

            There are of course constant pressures on this freedom, because this freedom in our society comes with a price.

            That price is responsibility.

            Words can illuminate, educate, entertain and many other positive outcomes. Words can also incite violence and hatred, they can be slanderous or just plain insulting.

            Freedom of speech in itself worthless without the knowlege of how to use it
            wisely.

            • Martin

              Sorry about all the spelling mistakes, though I’m free to make them 🙂

              What happened to the spell checker? 🙂

            • The silver fhox

              Well said Martin. Your last sentence is telling. Speech needs to be accompanied by wisdom. Too many use it without thinking or without regard of the consequences as ecojon has so clearly stated.

            • Marching on Together

              “Freedom of speech in itself worthless without the knowlege of how to use it wisely.” I agree. But that is not to say that legislation should force us to use it wisely.

      • I think a clear distinction has to be made between free speech and incitement. The only way I can think of is to provide a hypothetical example set in my home city of Montreal.

        A well established independence party has recently been elected to the Quebec provincial legislature. The leader of this party is a polarizing figure and wildly unpopular with the anglophone community. The night she was elected, an attempt was made on her life by a deranged gunman. Prior to this incident, a comment of the sort “Marois needs a bullet. Simples.” may not have drawn any attention, unless, of course, there was a history of credible threats directed to members of that party or the party leader herself in the past. Now there is a history of credible threats, and given this history, the authorities would need to respond to any threats accordingly.

        There is already a history of credible threats against prominent employees at Celtic. The authorities are right to take these threats seriously. Even if the individual was doing it in jest, he must made to understand that this sort of comment is simply unacceptable. People have a basic right to feel safe from threats and intimidation. I don’t think free speech extends to the point where people should feel free to threaten, explicitly or implicitly, whomever they want. It makes a mockery of free speech.

  4. MOT
    …Whooooft !! Therein lies the problem,
    Please no more,as this blog is read by normal people who live outwith Scotland.

    • Marching on Together

      Good. It will show that in Scotland there are still some who defend the right of people to say what they want, without having to ask permission from the state first, and that we are not all in Scotland pining for the rules and practices of North Korea.

  5. COYBIG

    @Marching on Together

    If the replys to your post, are anything to go by. Maybe you should think about changing your name to ‘Marching on Alone’. 😉

    • Marching on Together

      Supporting a belief that is right and just is often a lonely business. Can’t wait until they attempt to criminalise speech that you support, and then we will see how many, other than me, will stand by you.

      • COYBIG

        @Marching on Together

        After reading your reply to my last post, I think I feel like the presenter in this video:

        • Marching on Together

          Well I laughed. Do you want to lock him up?

          • COYBIG

            The Dalai Lama, or the presenter?

            • Marching on Together

              The presenter. Those, like you who wish to restrict free speech, want to lock up the Dalai Lama.

            • COYBIG

              @Marching on Together

              I want to restrict free speech? Eh…sorry to dent your ‘one man’s fight for freedom’ crusade, but I have never said speech should be restricted.

              I would be greatful, if you would stop the holier-than-thou persona, just for a minute, and apologise for misrepresenting my character.

              Hmm…should I, or should I not, hold my breath?

      • Presumably you didn’t intend that to read that you actively support the sentiments expressed in the tweet. If what you are saying is it is important to defend a persons right to speak and express themselves even (and sometimes if) you disagree with their point then you are unlikely to get an argument here. But that is not what this discussion is about. It is about a specific tweet, sent against a background of assaults, parcel bombs, people being contacted by the police to warn them about credible threats to their safety and that of their family. Not to accept that this particular example is beyond the parameter of what a civilized society can tolerate in terms of a person’s right to free speech is likely to put you into the sort of minority the daily mail mistakenly refer to as the silent majority.

        • Marching on Together

          I do not support the sentiments expressed in the tweet. I support the right of the tweeter to express those sentiments. Huge difference. Too many on here it seems to me only want free speech where they agree with what is being spoken or written.

          As for the background you refer to, the singing in support of the armed struggle in Ireland also came against a “against a background of assaults, parcel bombs, people being contacted by the police to warn them about credible threats to their safety and that of their family” and far far worse. According to the logic of your argument, no songs in support of the IRA should have been allowed at Celtic Park. For you not to “accept that this particular example is beyond the parameter of what a civilized society can tolerate in terms of a person’s right to free speech is likely to put you into the sort of minority the daily mail mistakenly refer to as the silent majority.”

      • The silver fhox

        @Marching on together.
        So we can take it from your last comment that you only support some free speech and not ALL free speech.

  6. JimBhoy

    Wonder what’s stopping them from locking up Leggo..!!!

  7. JimBhoy

    Jabba is a threat to my lugs ANYTIME i have the misfortune to hear him and when I read what he writes my intelligence is seriously insulted but when I see his bawheid I want to poke my eyes out..

  8. carl31

    What was the motivation of the alleged offence? Football match related or general ill-feeling towards the subject?
    I find myself agreeing with the decision of the court.

    For the ‘written words’ set in place by the perpetrator (who pled guilty to BotP, remember, MoT – so we’re not considering a case where the chap is innocent) which, IMO, holds a bit more weight than spoken words re these kind of things, and which could be construed as incitement, he received a community service punishment. Given what the words hold in their intent, they aren’t restricted to violence at a footy match – any footy match past or present.

    Generally, this seems a case of daftboyishness. Someone’s relatively short period of thinking they can act the ‘BillyBigSpuds’ on social network without a mind for consequences.

    • ecojon

      @ carl31

      You should really read Paul’s piece as it deals with an interesting concept and actually restricts the law in that any charges if future, as I understand what Paul is saying, have to refer to a specific footballing match and not generally to footballing matters.

      This case was after celtic ch exec was asked to comment on Rangers going to SFL3 and he said it wouldn’t affect Celtic and had nothing really to do with Celtic.

      The prob is that the cops have to investigate – they can’t just leave it and they have a fairly wide leeway as to whether it goes ahead or not. They decided obviously to report it and the fiscal decided to run with it and I make my own deductions from that.

      • Marching on Together

        That is a fair comment. I have long thought that the courts have used banning orders far too liberally, in ways which Parliament never intended their use, so this decision is to be welcomed.

  9. carl31

    MoT,
    The perpetrator pled guilty to Breach of the Peace. So the guy who actually carried out the act appears to agree with those whom you continuously criticise, despite your protestations that he should be held innocent of all.

    • Marching on Together

      I do not consider him innocent under the law as it currently stands, and nowhere have I said otherwise. I believe the law as it currently stands though is an ass, and it should not be an offence in the first place. Big difference.

  10. JohnBhoy

    FREE SPEECH

    On the one hand, free speech is an important mark of a democratic society. On the other hand, with free speech comes responsibility and an understanding that what we say, or sing, does not conflict with our laws. If free speech means free to say what we want then the Famine Song would be acceptable. Nor does free speech extend to death threats.

    Yet, there are occasions when we make exaggerated utterances that are clearly ridiculous but taken literally, and ignoring the circumstances, could theoretically result in unjustified legal action and, indeed, a valid accusation that our free speech is under erosion.

    The case in point – “Lawell needs a bullet. Simples.” – is a poor example to use in support of the latter scenario. Given the death threats to Neil Lennon et al it would have been irresponsible not to at least investigate the author of the tweet (tweets – such a soft, innocent word – should not have a level of protection closed to other forms of communication). Whether or not the threat was real, I’ll leave to the courts.

  11. ecojon

    @ Marchin on Together

    You have obviously lost the plot and don’t seem to understand that in the stance you have taken and the way you present it you are actually a bigger threat to Free Speech than anyone I have ever come across posting on here and you just don’t get it,

    I am not going to waste much more time on you as it is obvious you will say anything and do anything to gain your objective including fabrication. Normally I would end this post here but there are things which you have ascribed to me which are untrue so I will continue. But I will never again engage with you again on this subject because I quite simply do not trust you and would hate to miss a reply you might make to me misrepresenting my comments or opinions and lose the chance to correct them.

    And as for jumping back to a post 2 weeks ago without detailing it well what can I say except I am bemused.

    You state: 7) You clearly from your post believe that pro-IRA songs should be sung at Celtic Park, and I agree with you on that. However, I would argue that if some there want to sing such songs then they should be allowed to do so. Your and my background, whether ethnic, religious or cultural, is irrelevant to this. We both recognise though that part of the Celtic tradition has been the singing of such songs. You seem happy for the state to ban their singing, whereas I am not.

    Where in my post do I state that pro-IRA songs should be sung at Celtic Park? I am totally opposed to that and don’t believe such songs should be sung at any football ground no matter what terrorist group is involved.

    And the basis for my opinion is that it has nothing to do with football and also as Celtic is a club with a wide religious mix of fans and plenty who have none, like myself, the songs could cause offence to our own supporters never mind how they are viewed by opposition fans.

    You say my background is irrelevant but you are the one who first raised it and wrongly identified it as Celtic and then drew certain erroneous conclusions from that without a shred of evidence. Now to cover your error it suddenly becomes irrelevant . You then state the singing of pro-IRA songs at Celtic Park has nothing to do with a person’s ethnic, religious or cultural background. What Planet are you living on man?

    You further state that singing pro-IRA songs is part of the Celtic tradition. Firstly I have no idea what particular IRA organisation period you are talking about and I also don’t know whether you are referring to the football club or the wider cultural meaning of Celtic. And given the looseness you display with people’s answers and their replies I will pass on that one as who knows what I will be accused of.

    Again you state that I seem happy for the State to ban such songs. Where did I state or even infer that and what State are you referring to?
    I have my own opinion on this matter and as we live in a Democracy then I can express that opinion and attempt to defend it in debate.

    I made it clear that if people want to glorify terrorists and sing songs to them then that is up to them but I do not find it acceptable in a footballing context.

    You state ‘Supporting a belief that is right and just is often a lonely business’. Spoken like a true Zealot who believes that all their beliefs are right and just and anyone who is opposed to their personal world view must also oppose civil liberties and the Right to Free Speech which is actually often used to cow minorities and not to empower them.

    • Marching on Together

      My apologies. A typo which radically distorted what I meant to say. I intended to type “You clearly from your post believe that pro-IRA songs should NOT be sung at Celtic Park, and I agree with you on that”. The rest of the point I made is consistent with that. You are right to accuse me of fabrication if that was indeed what I meant to say, so I apologise again.

      For further clarification, when I said that you were from a Celtic background, that is what I meant i.e. someone who supports Celtic. If I had intended any religious connotations to it, I would have said ‘Celtic-minded’ or indeed ‘Catholic’. I come from a background where you supported Celtic because they played attacking attractive football, rather than hoofing it up the park like the other lot, and your religion was nothing to do with it.

  12. Martin

    Does Lawell need a bullet?

    Lets say Lawell was in a life threatening situation were an armed attacker was threatening his life with a gun. Lets also say Lawell has a gun with which he could defend himself with, but has no bulllets.

    Then it’s fair to say “Lawell needs a bullet, simples”

    Lets say Lawell states something that you don’t like. Well, you could say that you want to bring about an end to Lawells right to freedom of speech in the most extreme way.

    or you could say… “Lawell needs a bulllet, simples”

  13. COYBIG

    Speaking of Twitter, a tenuous link but, RTC has tweeted about an artical that was in the Guardian, about Campbell Ogilvie, his time at Hearts, and a Tax issue: http://m.guardian.co.uk/football/2012/oct/26/hearts-revenue-customs-tribunal-tax-bill?cat=football&type=article

    It’s times like this, we should remember what a ‘great’ man once said:

  14. JimBhoy

    Ally needs the bullet…

  15. dan

    Why are we even engaging with Marching On Together (the monicker says it all). Even Voltaire (I may not agree with what you say, but I will lay down my life for your right to say it) recognised that there are limits to freedom of speech. The most obvious one being the man in the packed theatre who falsely shouts ‘Fire!’, causing death in the stampede from the not-infernal building. What the bam who tweeted the ‘bullet for Lawael,’ thingy was guilty of was a ‘hate crime’. He was inviting/soliciting one, or more, of his fellow bams to seek to injure/kill a person he thought responsible for injuring his disgraced football club. In a civilised society that cannot be allowed to stand, and so he was rightly done for his misdemeanour. To say that his tweet falls within the sacrosanct boundaries of freedom of speech is utter bollocks. I may hate, loath, detest, revile, and wish for the utter destruction of Rangers, The Rangers, Newco, Sevco, or whatever they are called, but if I canvassed, or tried to enlist, or encourage, any individual or group likely to share my disposition, to act violently towards Rangers, The Rangers, Newco, or Sevco,then I would expect to feel the full weight of the law if my entreaties were discovered, as the bam’s in question clearly were—since the clown went and published them. What stupidity! I blame their schooling.

    • Marching on Together

      The example of the man in the packed theatre who falsely shouts ‘Fire!’ was first used by Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes in the case Schenck v. United States, which upheld legislation removing the right of citizens to protest about the draft during WW1. This case established the “clear and present danger test”, necessary for speech to be restricted (which test lasted in the US until 1969). The example of the tweeter before us does not pass that test, so the example you cite unknowingly clears the guy on twitter if applied.

      The same Supreme Court in 1919 on the same basis convicted two further socialists Debs and Frohwerk for making speeches opposing the war. These three 1919 cases taken together meant that the law of the US was that you could be convicted and sentenced to prison if you criticised the war, or the draft, in a way that obstructed the draft, which might mean no more than convincing people to write or march or petition against it.

      This is the context of the “fire in a theatre” quote that you have given to justify censorship.

      • Antonious F

        with all due respect, we are not in the US, a country where freedom of everything is the order of the day, in which some states allow persons to carry firearms without a permit/licence. sounds like your kinda place MOT

        • Marching on Together

          While we are not in the US, those who quote the shouting fire in the crowded theatre example, should know where it comes from, as they usually do not. Oliver Wendell Holmes did in fact largely recant from his views in the shouting fire case, and indeed in a later case said: ” I think that we should be eternally vigilant against attempts to check the expression of opinions that we loathe and believe to be fraught with death, unless they so imminently threaten immediate interference with the lawful and pressing purposes of the law that an immediate check is required to save the country.”

          • Brian J

            With respect, I think you are missing the point. It is not the content of the tweet which was objectionable in law and which caused the authorities and the courts to intervene. Rather, it was the intent of what was said. The tweet has been quoted several times on this blog but it is quoted in circumstances where it is clear that the intent of those saying it is benign such as here where it is simply informing an ongoing debate. It follows that it is not the case that the mere fact of saying something attracts the potential of a criminal conviction. The essential element is the intent. The courts have a duty to intervene where in all the circumstances there is reason to believe that the intent is criminal inasmuch as it is designed to cause harm or distress or where it is intended to incite violence in others or there is a reckless disregard as to whether it will incite such violence or not.
            This man was not prosecuted simply because he said “Lawell needs a bullet. Simples”. Rather, he was prosecuted because the authorities took the view that in all the circumstances his intent in posting such a remark was malicious, deliberately designed to cause alarm and offence and with either specific intent to incite violence in others or with a reckless disregard for wheter or not it incited such violence in others. I have just used the exact same words at the start of this paragraph. I do not expect that I will be prosecuted because the context in which I have used the words is in no way malicious, my intent is benign being no more than an attempt to inform an ongoing debate in an entirely reasonable manner.

          • JohnBhoy

            Yes, Holmes tried to recant his shameful support for state censorship, but he was no champion of free speech. He was the architect of censorship which lasted in the USA for 50 years. The quote you provide was a belated and unconvincing attempt by him to assuage his conscience over the Schenck, Debs and Frohwerk cases. He was the bastard who drafted the legal opinion justifying forcible sterilisation. Here’s a wee quote from your freedom guru:

            “It is better for a world if, instead of waiting to execute degenerate offspring for crime or to let them starve for their imbecility, society can prevent those who are manifestly unfit from continuing their kind. The principle that sustains compulsory vaccination is broad enough to cover cutting the Fallopian tubes. Three generations of imbeciles are enough.”

            Holmes and freedom? Aye, right.

            • Marching on Together

              Holmes is no freedom guru of mine. I totally agree with what you write – I could have given chapter and verse about his support for eugenics previously, but felt that that was getting a bit off topic.

              The problem is that people quote his example of shouting fire in a crowded theatre, but without knowing the background to it, or the views of the man who said it. Most people who use that quote would in fact be horrified to know that they were in fact justifying the banning of speech in opposition to war and justifying eugenics, but hey, it is a mindless quote to use.

  16. Antonious F

    If the prosecution had presented it’s case as purely a breach of the peace, and not linked it to any Football match, the likelihood is that the perp would have been found guilty, and rightly so.

    how many times have you been pis*ed off with something a politician, a public servent, a bank boss or a journalist has said?. should we all take to public forums as suggest they need taken out?.

    The perp has his right to FOS, but what was to stop him addressing the target of his tweet in a responsible way, send him a letter expressing the reasons why he disagreed with him, an open letter to a newspaper or a phone call to his place of employment to complain in a non-threatning manner?

    accepting that anything can be said under the umbrella of FOS is at best irresponsible and a worst down right dangerous.

    To quote my fav superhero ‘with great power comes great responsibility’.

    • Brian J

      He was found guilty. The appeal related only to the banning order part of his sentence. The banning order was found to be incompetent because banning orders, by law, can only be imposed where the conduct complained of is associated to a specific football match which was not the case in this instance. He remains convicted of the offence and the remaining part of his sentence of 70 hours Community Payback Order is still in force.

  17. JimBhoy

    http://www.scotsman.com/sport/football/sfl-division-three/glenn-gibbons-green-must-think-we-are-yokels-1-2602048

    Is this a journalist looking at fact and expressing an honest opinion wtf, thought that wasn’t allowed..!!

  18. ian lewis

    While you are perfectly free to make your comment re Gibbons it might be more accurate to state that “Gibbons states the bl**ding obvious”-he of course has complete freedom to do this.

  19. Fitz

    Is it safe to assume that, while a football banning order may not be in place, Rangers have banned him from attending any match at Ibrox at least?

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