Football sectarian bill to be reviewed

Controversial laws to crack down on sectarian crime at football matches are to be reviewed by a senior Scottish legal figure, it has been announced.

Lord Bracadale will lead the review into hate crime laws

The Scottish Government said laws covering hate crime, including its own Offensive Behaviour at Football and Threatening Communications Act, will be considered in the review by Lord Bracadale, a senior member of the judiciary.

The announcement was made following widespread concern about the legislation with the Offensive Behaviour at Football Act facing opposition in the Scottish Parliament.

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All opposition parties believe the act should be scrapped claiming the legislation is unworkable, badly drafted and unfairly targets football fans..

The legislation was passed when the SNP had a majority at Holyrood, but last year the new minority Scottish Government were dealt a symbolic blow when the proposals were defeated at Holyrood.

The review was announced by Community Safety and Legal Affairs minister Annabelle Ewing.

Beginning this month, the review will last 12 months and will consider whether current laws are appropriate and consistent and if hate crime legislation needs simplified.

It will also look at whether new categories of hate crime should be created to cover age and gender.

Ms Ewing said: “Racism, intolerance and prejudice of all kinds are a constant threat to society, and while Scotland is an open and inclusive nation, we are not immune from that threat.

“While we already have robust and comprehensive laws in place, we need to make sure that legislation is up-to-date and able to counter all forms of hate crime. That is why I have commissioned an independent review, to be chaired by Lord Bracadale.

“This review will help ensure we have the right legislative protection in place to tackle hate crime wherever and whenever it happens. I look forward to Lord Bracadale presenting his findings.”

Lord Bracadale said: “I welcome this invitation to conduct a review of the Scottish criminal law dealing with conduct motivated by hatred, malice, ill-will or prejudice. Hate crime legislation has developed intermittently over many years and it is important to consider whether it currently provides appropriate, effective and consistent protection for Scottish communities.

“I am keen for the review to be informed by evidence. I intend to meet key community representatives and those involved in applying the law, as well as carrying out a public consultation, to ensure that the views of those with a direct interest will be heard and considered as part of the review.”