Connect with us


Lawyers warn ENTIRE football stadium of fans could need to be arrested to enforce SNP’s new hate crime law – with football chiefs ‘completely in the dark’ about how it’ll be enforced just days before Rangers play Celtic



An entire football stadium of fans would need to be arrested to enforce the SNP‘s new hate crime law, a lawyer has suggested – with football chiefs left ‘completely in the dark’ about how it will be enforced at this weekend’s Old Firm derby. 

There have been no talks between government officials and the Scottish FA (SFA) over how the legislation will affect football games and no new guidance has been issued to officers before Sunday’s game, according to reports.

Alistair Bonnington – a former law lecturer and head of legal at BBC Scotland – suggested the legislation was so wide-ranging that ‘technically almost everyone’ at an Old Firm game should be arrested. 

He told MailOnline: ‘Rangers fans have various songs about the Pope which are extremely rude and make a lot of jokes about all Catholic priests being sex offenders. Then Celtic sing Irish republican songs.

‘These religious hatreds could fall within this act. In fact I don’t think there’s any doubt they do – after all the whole point of these songs is to spread hatred.’

Meanwhile, Thomas Ross KC predicted Police Scotland would be ‘inundated’ with hate crime reports from Celtic fans about sectarian songs being sung by the home crowd after this weekend’s clash – where away fans are banned for ‘safety and security’ reasons. 

There will be no love lost when the two bitter rivals meet at Ibrox on Sunday, although only Rangers fans will be in attendance 

Thomas Ross KC predicted Police Scotland would be 'inundated' with hate crime reports from Celtic fans about sectarian songs being sung by the home crowd

Thomas Ross KC predicted Police Scotland would be ‘inundated’ with hate crime reports from Celtic fans about sectarian songs being sung by the home crowd

Ally McCoist was criticised this week after claiming police would have to arrest him and 48,000 other Rangers supporters to enforce the hate crime bill, which he dismissed as ‘madness’. He later said he would not be going to the game at all. 

Both the SFA and Scottish Premiership are said to have been left with no idea of what to expect this Sunday if police are under Government orders to come down hard on examples of ‘hatred or prejudice’. 

A source told the Daily Record: ‘There has been absolutely no engagement from the Scottish government with regards how this new law might manifest itself inside football stadiums.

‘As many people have commented it appears to be close to impossible for the police to enforce but we have been completely left in the dark over what to expect now that the new legislation is in place.’ 

Previous clashes between Celtic and Rangers have seen supporters hang effigies, chant sectarian songs and brandish offensive banners.

When the teams played each other for the first time in four years in September 2016, Celtic supporters hung blow-up sex dolls from the top tier of the club’s Jock Stein Stand – accompanying them with the message: ‘This is it Bhoys, this is war’.

A banner was also displayed in the stadium’s Green Brigade ultras section, reading: ‘Know your place. Hun scum.’

Meanwhile, Rangers fans sang the Billy Boys song, which has been banned at Scottish grounds since 2011, with its line: ‘We’re up to our knees in F****n’ blood.’

Thomas Ross KC, of Benchmark Advocates in Glasgow, said another chant known as ‘the Famine Song’ could amount to an offence under the new legislation. 

He told MailOnline: ‘The new section 4 offence is committed where a person behaves in a manner that a reasonable person would consider to be abusive or insulting, where a reasonable person would consider that behaviour to be likely to result in hatred being stirred up hatred against a group of persons defined by reference to nationality or ethnic or national origins

‘There was controversy some years ago about a song sung by some Rangers fans that became known as ”the Famine Song”. That song contained a line ”the famine is over, why don’t you go home” a reference to the arrival of the Irish in Glasgow in the 1840s.

‘That could be an example of conduct by fans that could amount to an offence under the new legislation. It may well have constituted an aggravated offence under the old legislation – but although it was sometimes sung, I’m unaware of anybody being prosecuted for doing so.’ 

Mr Ross predicted that the new laws could be exploited by fans to score points against their rivals.  

‘It is likely that the match will give rise to complaints about alleged breaches of the new legislation – historically there’s a lot of animosity between the supporters of the two clubs and each group of fans report the other for songs that they each sing at matches,’ he said. 

‘But I don’t think it’s likely we’ll see any prosecutions at football games or anywhere else – the law is too complicated.’

Ally McCoist has slammed Scotland's new hate crime law and says he expects to break it - along with 48,000 Rangers fans. He has since said he won't attend the game

Ally McCoist has slammed Scotland’s new hate crime law and says he expects to break it – along with 48,000 Rangers fans. He has since said he won’t attend the game 

Celtic head across Glasgow leading the Scottish Premiership table by just a point from their bitter rivals Rangers, who retain game in hand.

There will be no Celtic fans in attendance at Ibrox this time but away allocations will return next season after a truce was reached between the two clubs.

Conservative MSP Murdo Fraser today accused Police Scotland of ‘making it up as they go’ as discrepancies emerged in how the country’s hate crime laws were being recorded.

The force confirmed on Tuesday that comments made by Harry Potter author JK Rowling – in which she misgendered 10 transgender women including campaigners, rapists and celebrities on social media – did not meet the criminal threshold.

Police also said her remarks would not be recorded as a non-crime hate incident (NCHI) – which is when a complaint does not meet the threshold for a crime but is perceived to be ‘motivated (wholly or partly) by malice and ill-will towards a social group’.

Mr Fraser was found to have committed an NCHI in November after he blasted the Scottish government’s ‘non-binary action plan’ and said ‘choosing to identify as ‘non-binary’ is as valid as choosing to identify as a cat.

Police Scotland said Rowling’s comments were assessed but did not reach the threshold for an NCHI.

In response, the bestselling author tweeted: ‘Again, I trust everyone will be treated the same way if they express themselves similarly. Nobody should have a ‘Hate Incident’ logged against them for accurately describing, or asserting the importance and reality, of biological sex. We must all be equal under the law.’

Rowling – who had dared police to arrest her – had posted a series of tweets in which she spoke out against 10 trans women, including double rapist Isla Bryson, who was jailed for eight years last year for raping two women

The attacks were carried out when Bryson, born Adam Graham, was a man.

The force also said First Minister Humza Yousaf’s 2020 speech about ‘often being the only non-white person in the room’ would not be logged as an NCHI. 

Mr Fraser, who is considering legal action against Police Scotland, claimed the force’s decision was politically biased.

An offensive banner was also displayed in the stadium’s Green Brigade ultras section, which read: ‘Know your place. Hun scum’

Reacting to Mr Yousaf and Ms Rowling’s remarks not being recorded as NCHIs, he said: ‘This decision means Police Scotland have not only breached their own policy on recording non-crime hate incidents, but now appear to be making it up as they go along.

‘They have taken a different approach to comments made by the SNP first minister to those made by an opposition politician. It is hard not to conclude that Police Scotland has been captured by the SNP policy agenda and that this is a decision that reeks of political bias.

 ‘I hope the chief constable will contact me urgently with an immediate apology for recording a hate incident against me and confirming all records in relation to it have been destroyed. They should also ditch their existing unlawful policy — as has been done in England and Wales — which I believe is a clear breach of people’s human rights.’

It comes as the Scottish Tories estimate that 1.4million complaints could be made under the controversial new law in the first year.

Calum Steele, the former general secretary of the Scottish Police Federation, said that around 3,800 cases were logged within the first 24 hours of the act coming into force Monday.

The Scottish Tories have claimed that if the rate continues for the next 12 months, a total of 1.387 million crimes will be reported during 2024/2025 financial year.

Mr Yousaf is believed to be the subject of the most complaints under the Hate Crime and Public Order (Scotland) Act, which creates a new crime of ‘stirring up hatred’ towards certain protected characteristics

These are a person’s age, disability, religion, sexual orientation, transgender identity or being intersex.

An insider told the Sun: ‘A lot of those complaints were about Humza Yousaf, on the same complaint about his parliamentary rant. JK Rowling has had some, but not as many as Humza Yousaf.’

What changes are being made by Scotland’s new hate crime laws?

The Hate Crime and Public Order (Scotland) Act 2021 has come into force on April 1, 2024.

It creates a new crime of ‘stirring up hatred’ relating to age, disability, religion, sexual orientation, transgender identity or being intersex – and the maximum penalty for offending is a jail term of seven years.

The act says a person can be found guilty if they communicate material or behave in a way ‘that a reasonable person would consider to be threatening or abusive’, with the intention of stirring up hatred based on the protected characteristics.

Britain’s Public Order Act 1986 already criminalises stirring up hatred based on race, colour, nationality or ethnicity.

But the new Scottish law is said to set the bar lower for finding offence, as it includes ‘insulting’ behaviour and says prosecutors need only prove that stirring up hatred was ‘likely’ instead of ‘intended’.

A dedicated team within Police Scotland is said to include ‘a number of hate crime advisers’ to help officers in determining what action to take against suspected offenders.

Summary convictions dealt with in magistrates’ courts will be able to carry prison terms of up to 12 months as well as fines, while more serious offenders who are indicted and handled in crown courts could be jailed for as many as seven years while also facing potential fines. 

Stirring up hatred over race, religion or sexual orientation by threatening behaviour is illegal in England and Wales.

There has been criticism of the new Scottish act for not covering hatred of women. 

The Scottish government has promised to introduce a new bill specifically targeting misogyny

Continue Reading