The initiation of the Offensive Behaviour at Football Bill has its roots with Strathclyde Police. It was they who instigated Alex Salmond’s summit in the aftermath of a game against the huns which really was blown out of all proportion by police, politicians and the media.
Salmond’s desperate political posturing made him an enthusiastic ally for the police and the hastily prepared Bill started to move through the legislative process at a rate of knots.
Thankfully some early voices of opposition forced the Scottish Government into a rethink over the timing of the Bill but during that process Justice Committee Convenor Christine Grahame described the legislation as an opportunity to ‘even up’ the number of convictions for sectarian related offences. In short this legislation is aimed primarily at Celtic supporters as the existing legislation is more than adequate at bringing individuals to justice and sentencing them accordingly. If this were not the case then how exactly are many of the recent high profile sectarian crime cases being progressed through the criminal justice system?
Let’s face it the new legislation is a dog’s dinner, breathtakingly ignorant in it’s construction and intent. Everyone knows this. The opposition to the Bill has increased significantly, and among the most vociferous opponents are the core of the Celtic support.
So why should we be surprised that as Celtic supporters have organised demonstrations and rallies against the Bill that Strathclyde’s finest start to up their tactics to undermine the Celtic support?
One of the consequences of the Salmond Summit was the establishment of a Football Policing Unit for Scotland. Under the control of David Brand, this Unit was established despite the delays to the new legislation and it appears that he and his team have wasted little time in generally harassing ordinary football supporters both in and around Celtic Park and other grounds. The ritual filming of Celtic fans in certain sections of the ground should be seen as both an act of intimidation and also an infringement of human rights. Start filming them back and they would soon be attempting to confiscate your mobile phones and other filming devices.
Clearly, the recent Hibs home game demonstrated that the police will be swift to increase their antagonism towards those Celtic supporters voicing opposition to the Bill. Following the Fans Against Criminalisation rally in George Square and a march to Parkhead, the police appeared determined to get some kind of ‘result’ inside the ground and after the game in the Green Brigade section. On this point it is hoped that Celtic stadium chiefs are ascertaining why heavy handed policing has started to become the norm thanks to David Brand’s Police Unit.
Remember, these new police initiatives are all being implemented without any of the new legislation being on the statute books so, again, why the need for new legislation?.
Of course this catalogue of incidents and arrests of Celtic supporters over what the police define as offensive (or ‘illicit’ if you are the legally cautious BBC) also masks the fact that records relating to sectarian motivated crimes under existing legislation have been destroyed. Quelle surprise. It’s almost as though the police are determined to carry out Grahame’s ‘evening up’ demands before the new legislation is in place.
Brand’s recent interviews again tell us that he has no wish to define offensive but that he and his fellow Strathclyde officers will know it when they see it. This of course is preposterous and will lead to a range of wrongful arrests, failed convictions unnecessary taxpayers expense.
One thing is for sure ordinary Celtic supporters are going to have to wise up very quickly on what their legal rights are because the police appear determined to implement their own vague definitions and prejudices in arresting folk. All of course backed by the Scottish Government who would collectively struggle to spell the word football.