SPF vice-chairman David Hamilton said yesterday, on the John Beattie radio programme:
‘Personally, I believe the repeal of the Offensive Behaviour Act has had an impact, because I think that some people feel wrongly legitimised to behave in a way that they wouldn’t otherwise behave.’
Readers will remember that the OBFA, introduced in January 2012, was repealed in April 2018 after a campaign led by Labour’s James Kelly and with the collusion of all the opposition parties, apparently desperate to ‘get one/anything over’ the SNP.
I’ve been careful with my headline. I know you can’t prove the repeal of the OBFA caused the upsurge in trouble at matches or the recent stabbing of a young Celtic fan in Glasgow but it will have contributed in quite a big way, given the publicity it received to changing the climate and making such behaviour, in its milder forms, seem less deviant and thus more probable. This in turn will have created an environment in which a greater frequency of low-level abuse will increase the risk of that triggering more serious reactions including physical violence.
There is little compelling empirical evidence for the success of the OBFA but that would be unlikely after such a short time in place. The increasing number of prosecutions (2017-18 not comparable due to repeal of Act) might reasonably be expected to have a gradual effect on reducing behaviour over time.