No, Scotland does not need new legislation now
IT IS part of the grim year-to-year reporting of the disorder that far too often surrounds Old Firm games that press and television reports end with a standard sentence: "Strathclyde Police reported that there had been (insert number here) arrests in and around the ground."
As a lifelong criminal defence lawyer, I could never concede that all these people were guilty, but I do concede their arrests flowed from a belief on the part of the police that they had broken the law.
Throughout the rush to pass the Offensive Behaviour at Football and Threatening Communications Bill, not a single credible example was provided of behaviour in Scotland, now to be criminalised, which was not already against the law. Nor was it shown how the existing penalties are inadequate. There is, for example, no limit on the period of imprisonment for the most common offence of breach of the peace. On the other hand, attempts to show what might additionally be criminalised led to the bizarre exchanges around various national anthems. Thankfully our monolingual culture prevented detailed consideration of the words of the Marseillaise.
If ever there was an example of a government wanting to be seen to do something, simply to demonstrate that something was being done, this was surely it. Thank goodness they've been found out.
• Ian Smart is a former president of the Law Society of Scotland.
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