Tag Archives: Boys of the Old Brigade

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. Continue reading

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

High Court Confirms Draconian Nature of Offensive Behaviour Act re “Boys of the Old Brigade”

Today the High Court of Justiciary allowed an appeal by the Procurator Fiscal in Dingwall against the decision of a Sheriff to hold that there was no case to answer in relation to a charge under Section 1 of the Offensive Behaviour at Football and Threatening Communications (Scotland) Act 2012. The decision by the court, which was made up of Lady Paton, Lord Brodie and Lord Philip in the case against Joseph Cairns, which can be read in full here, makes clear the full extent of the Offensive Behaviour Act, and confirms that, effectively, if the police give evidence that a particular song or chant is likely to be considered offensive by a reasonable person, then an offence is committed, whether or not there is anyone there who was, or indeed could have been, offended.

Whilst this decision is a correct interpretation of the legislation, and therefore the Court cannot be faulted for its reasoning, I think it shows the draconian extent of the legislation, and the scope for abuse of it which there could be, in the hands of unscrupulous prosecutors or police. It also shows the inconsistencies in the legislation and in deciding in what circumstances an offence can, and cannot, be committed.

In addition, it clearly, as far as I can see, runs into conflict with the rights to free expression which are enshrined in the European Convention on Human Rights. Continue reading

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Filed under Criminal Law, Offensive Behaviour at Football and Threatening Communications (Scotland) Bill