Police are failing to make full use of football banning orders to crack down on hooliganism in the game, a new report warns.
The Independent Review of Football Policing in Scotland found that the force is missing an opportunity to tackle crime.
It suggests that officers don’t apply for civil football banning orders for known troublemakers as they are seen as being too costly.
It comes after a series of incidents at matches in recent months – including sectarian abuse and missiles being thrown on to pitches – and also claims that organised groups of thugs are arranging clashes with rival supporters in advance of matches.
In Scotland, a football banning order can be handed out by the courts when someone is convicted of a football-related offence. Alternatively, they can be dished out via the civil route through summary application.
This might be when police have reason to believe someone is involved in football-related offences, but they are not facing any criminal charges. In the latter case, the summary application is lodged at a sheriff court on behalf of the chief constable.
The order prevents a person from attending any regulated football matches. They also have to report to a police station and could be asked to surrender their passport to prevent them from attending matches outside the UK. Each order can be tailored by a sheriff.
South Yorkshire Deputy Chief Constable Mark Roberts led the review which was commissioned by Police Scotland chief constable Iain Livingstone.
The report said: “Current Police Scotland policy requires the chief constable to approve any summary banning order applications and there is a perception (not shared or endorsed by chief officers) the force is reluctant to make the financial investment to pursue them and very few are progressed.
“While the competing demands for funding and legal services is widely appreciated, the current approach to summary applications represent a significant missed opportunity in tackling football-related crime and disorder.”
David Hamilton, vice-chair of the Scottish Police Federation, believes the football clubs themselves have a role in enforcing this.
He said: “Our experience of speaking to officers is that to get a football banning order on the civil route requires a considerable amount of circumstantial bits of information, bits of intelligence and the barrier is actually building that picture.
“If the clubs had a better grip on their own fans, particularly in terms of CCTV systems and better control over the identities of their fans, that would go a long way to helping us achieve that.”
Paisley MSP George Adam added: “If you can prove these things have happened, that is the way forward.”
The report said: “The current number of banning orders in Scotland appears low, which raises questions as to the effectiveness of the evidence-gather activities of (FoCUS), and others, in filming fans.
“There appears to be little doubt among all of the officers, and clubs, spoken to that even if a small number of individuals known to them were targeted by summary applications, this would have a significant effect on football-related violence and send a clear message to those who seek to engage in such activity.”
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