Thursday, January 12, 2012

Can Scotland Prosecute A Referee For Saying Mean Things About Catholics and the Pope ?

On the twitter some remarks about the Catholic Church by a former referee across the pond has set off a full tilt of outrage. It also includes the topic of laws that most Americans find very foreign.

..A former English Premiership referee's personal website has been suspended after an offensive rant against the Catholic Church and Celtic appeared on the blog.
The blog entry, posted under the name of Jeff Winter, asked whether "altar boys" would get "abused in celebration" after Celtic won the latest Old Firm game last month.
The post on the 56-year-old’s website also described Pope Benedict XVI as "dress wearing, Nazi, kiddy fiddling protector"....

..Strathclyde Police said they had been made aware of the remarks and were carrying out enquiries into it.
Celtic FC confirmed they had taken legal advice over the post and made a complaint to the police regarding it...

..Now IF indeed these are actual articles from Winters blog and IF he indeed wrote the article which caused his blog to bu suspended one must assume its a matter of if and not when the authorities get involved.
We have seen numerous football fans recently being prosecuted for writing similar comments on social networking sites.

No one is above the law....

What is this new law people are talking about? Well from late last year see these vast amount of links on the subject.

We have one article here Scottish anti-sectarianism law passes with free speech clause. As you can see there was some opposition. Also it seems that one can get up to FIVE YEARS in Prison for violation. See also Football Lead Welcomes Anti-Sectarian Law.

Of note is not so much the football part of this but the INTERNET aspect that appears to me to be related to more than Football games.As to the Internet part this appears to be in play in this case:

Condition B is that—
(a) the material is threatening, and
(b) the person communicating it intends by doing so to stir up hatred on religious
25 (6) It is a defence for a person charged with an offence under subsection (1) to show that the
communication of the material was, in the particular circumstances, reasonable


5A Protection of freedom of expression
(1) For the avoidance of doubt, nothing in section 5(5) prohibits or restricts—
(a) discussion or criticism of religions or the beliefs or practices of adherents of
35 religions,
(b) expressions of antipathy, dislike, ridicule, insult or abuse towards those matters
(c) proselytising, or
(d) urging of adherents of religions to cease practising their religions

By the way this guy was English. BUT we see

Sections 1(1) and 5(1): offences outside Scotland
(1) As well as applying to anything done in Scotland by any person, section 1(1) also
applies to anything done outside Scotland by a person who is habitually resident in
15 Scotland.

(2) As well as applying to anything done in Scotland by any person, section 5(1) also
applies to a communication
made by a person from outside Scotland if the person
intends the material communicated to be read, looked at, watched or listened to
primarily in Scotland

20 (3) Where an offence under section 1(1) or 5(1) is committed outside Scotland, the person
committing the offence may be prosecuted, tried and punished for the offence—

(a) in any sheriff court district in which the person is apprehended or in custody, or

(b) in such sheriff court district as the Lord Advocate may direct,
as if the offence had been committed in that district (and the offence is, for all purposes
25 incidental to or consequential on the trial and punishment, deemed to have been
committed in that district).

Can Americans have an arrest warrant served on them? Something tells me at the very least one has to be an UK Citizen ( or at least I hope maybe I am wrong).

I am generally skeptical of such laws in a Western Context. Maybe the situation has got as bad as lets say Iraq where various sects kill each other ,but I am rather doubtful.

Also it would seem that selective prosecution ,and the fact that int he real world of the Internet only a few would be prosecuted while the vast majority are not is problematic.

That being said I don't expect the world to follow United States First Amendment law. I am not just curious how this law could work in a practical sense without hurting other freedoms. I find the remarks of the REF to be offensive to me as a Catholic. Though from an American standpoint I am amazed it is enough to start a police investigation.

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