walked away from court without a criminal record after a sheriff gave him an absolute discharge, prompting criticism of the law that led to his arrest.
A STUDENT held after chanting abuse about the Pope and the Queen at a football match has been convicted under controversial anti-sectarian laws. But Adam Richmond, 19, walked away without a criminal record after a sheriff said he should not have been dragged into court.
The case has sparked a fresh wave of criticism over the Government’s Offensive Behaviour at Football and Threatening Communications Act, driven into place two years ago after a bad-tempered Old Firm match and designed to clamp down on sectarian abuse at games and online.
Football fans, lawyers and civil liberty campaigners have branded the legislation unnecessary and confused after cases have been questioned when they reached court. Richmond was arrested after police heard him singing “Fuck your Pope and fuck your Queen” as Partick Thistle played Celtic at Firhill in October.
Thistle fans sing the song to distance themselves from Rangers and Celtic. At Glasgow Sheriff Court, he was found guilty by Sheriff Norman Ritchie QC of behaviour likely to incite public disorder by singing sectarian and offensive remarks. But he told the teenager: “You are not the sort of person who creates the problem and needs this legislation.” He then discharged him absolutely.
That means Richmond, from Penilee, Glasgow, has no criminal record despite being found guilty. Yesterday, solicitor advocate Chris Fyffe said: “I struggle to see the point of this Act. One of the major concerns was it had an extremely long reach and was very vague in its terms. “This seems to be being borne out to a certain extent by some of these decisions, suggesting there is a reluctance on the part of the sheriffs to find one person in a crowd of 3000 guilty.
“Because of its vagueness, you can have a situation theoretically where somebody is saying something which is, on the face of it, offensive – it doesn’t have to be sectarian or racist and people do shout things at football matches – so there’s a potential there for criminalising football fans for what they have been doing for the past 150 years.
“These cases seem to be reflecting the concern a lot of lawyers – and not just defence lawyers but sheriffs as well – are having regarding this legislation.
“What it really seems to be doing is focusing on football behaviour as opposed to what many people see as the real concern, which is sectarianism in Scotland.
“It seems we are criminalising people who are letting off steam in a relatively secure environment.”
The Thistle song is supposed to celebrate the club’s neutrality from Old Firm bigotry with the line: “We hate the boys in royal blue, we hate the boys in emerald green, fuck your Pope and fuck your Queen.”
Partick Thistle declined to comment on the case.