How Unreasonable is the Offensive Behaviour etc Act – Guest Post by searriagh

In a continuation of the Scottish government’s determination to bludgeon football fans with their Offensive Behaviour at Football Grounds and Threatening Communications (Scotland) Act 2012, Mr Joseph Anthony Cairns, recently acquitted of the heinous crime of singing two Irish Republican songs at a football match is to be dragged once again through the courts.

After an appeal by the Prosecutor Fiscal’s office, three law Lords, Brodie, Phillips and Lady Paton have decide to overturn the original Sheriff’s decision in the trial. Mr Cairns was charged with breaching Section 1(2)(e) of the Act. That is to say he allegedly indulged in behaviour that a reasonable person would be likely to consider offensive.

The original Sheriff had decided that Mr Cairns had no case to answer as the evidence showed that there had been no obvious reaction from the opposition supporters to the songs sung, possibly due to the fact that they could not sufficiently hear the lyrics being chanted and therefore could not possibly be offended.

However on appeal it has been decided that due to the wording of the act, it is not necessary for a reasonably minded person to be present at the time to be offended, only that they would have been offended if they had in fact been present.

One must assume that the 2,500 Celtic fans surrounding Mr Cairns, who could hear the lyrics but were not offended, must not constitute a reasonable person in the eyes of the Scottish court.

And here we have the crux of the matter. Who decides what is offensive? And who defines what is to constitute a reasonable minded person?

PC Ingliss of the police FOCUS unit named the songs in question as, the Boys of the Old Brigade, and the Roll Of Honour. He then gave a brief synopsis of the songs for the benefit of the court;

“(The Boys of the Old Brigade) is a song which refers to the 1916 Easter Rising in Ireland and contains a reference to joining the IRA”.

What PC Ingliss fails to mention is that this is a song sung by Irish people throughout the world in praise of the founding fathers of the Irish Republic.


When this was pointed out to PC Ingliss during his cross examination, his position was that,

“Singing such songs was showing support for a terrorist organisation and that under the Lord Advocate’s guidelines, this constituted an offence under Section 1(2)(e) of the Act.”

One wonders how the Irish Government and its people must feel about having their heroes of 1916 described as terrorists in a Scottish court in 2013. We must also hope that the next time both countries face each other at Hampden Park, that the Irish fans do not decide to launch into any of their patriotic songs, lest the police FOCUS unit spark an international incident by immediately arresting vast swathes of their numbers.

I also find myself wondering how the police FOCUS unit would have handled the situation had Her Majesty the Queen, whilst on her way to the Garden of Remembrance in Dublin to lay a wreath in memory of the ‘Boys Of The Old Brigade’ had decided to stop off and take in an SPL match whilst still in the possession of the said wreath. Under the Lord Advocate’s guidelines surely Her Majesty would have been guilty of offending a reasonable minded person.

To continue on with the theme of the reasonable minded person let us look at the second song sung by Mr Cairns, the Roll Of Honour. PC Ingliss describes it as being;

“about the hunger strikes of the early 1980s, the persons named are ten paramilitary persons who died during the hunger strike.”

PC Ingliss is correct in his summation, but considering the most contentious lyric of the song is, “England you’re a monster”, we must assume that it is the fact that the song is about the sacrifice of the hunger strikers in general which contravenes Section 1(2)(e) of the Act.

Roll of H

As you may well know, the first of the ten hunger strikers to die was Bobby Sands. Whilst on hunger strike he was elected Member of Parliament for Fermanagh and South Tyrone with 30,493 votes. Are we then to conclude, that the 30,493 people who voted for Bobby Sands are not to be considered reasonable people?

After his death 100,000 attended his funeral in Belfast.


In 2011, 10,000 marched through the streets of Glasgow to mark the 30th anniversary of his passing. Again are they not to be considered reasonably minded people?

Upon hearing the news of his death the Indian Parliament stood for one minute’s silence; the New Jersey Legislature passed a motion to honour his courage; in Paris, Milan, Ghent and Lisbon thousands took to the street in spontaneous shows of support for the hunger strikers. Street names around the world were changed to bear his name, three in France alone. Lasting monuments have been erected in honour of the hunger strikers from Sydney to Derry, from Cuba to Connecticut.

One street in Paris

One street in Paris


The Bobby Sands Memorial in Hartford, Connecticut

Nelson Mandela has often spoken in praise of Bobby Sands. Let us hope that he does not do so within the confines of a Scottish football ground lest he finds himself having escaped his chains in South Africa’s Robben Island only to be incarcerated within Glasgow’s Barlinnie Prison.

Surely this shows the ridiculousness of this Act.

How is the Scottish court able to define who is a reasonable minded person and what is likely to offend this mythical person? Laws already existed to deal with religious bigotry and racism in Scotland, they are good laws and laws which are sadly needed, but unfortunately the Scottish police chose not to enforce these laws which has led to the SNP forcing through this ill-thought out and dangerous Act.

This Act seriously infringes people’s human rights. The majority of people in Scotland may not agree with Irish Republicans but that does not mean that it should be illegal to be one within the confines of Scottish football.

For the good of all scrap it now, and enforce the laws that which already existed before more people are forced through the courts, before more time and money is wasted, and before it is ultimately overturned in a European court and forced to be scrapped anyway.

Posted by searriagh



Filed under Football, Guest Posts, Human Rights, Offensive Behaviour at Football and Threatening Communications (Scotland) Bill

738 responses to “How Unreasonable is the Offensive Behaviour etc Act – Guest Post by searriagh

  1. Ed Paisley

    You haven’t yet mentioned the vatican’s new financial expert who was caught in a lift with a bellboy.

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