Lord Sharpe of Epsom:
Moved by Lord Sharpe of Epsom
96A: After Clause 164, insert the following new Clause—“CHAPTER 4FOOTBALL BANNING ORDERSFootball banning orders: relevant offences(1) The Football Spectators Act 1989 is amended as follows.(2) Schedule 1 (football banning orders: relevant offences) is amended in accordance with subsections (3) to (7).(3) In paragraph 1(c) (certain offences under the Public Order Act 1986 committed at premises)—(a) after “any offence under section” insert “4,”, and(b) before “harassment” insert “fear or provocation of violence, or”.(4) In paragraph 1(k) (certain offences under the Public Order Act 1986 committed on a journey to or from a football match)—(a) after “any offence under section” insert “4,”, and(b) before “harassment” insert “fear or provocation of violence, or”. (5) In paragraph 1(q) (certain offences under the Public Order Act 1986 which the court declares to be related to a football match)—(a) after “any offence under section” insert “4,”,(b) before “harassment” insert “fear or provocation of violence, or”, and(c) omit “or any provision of Part 3 or 3A of that Act (hatred by reference to race etc)”.(6) In paragraph 1, after paragraph (u) insert—“(v) any offence under any provision of Part 3 or 3A of the Public Order Act 1986 (hatred by reference to race etc)—(i) which does not fall within paragraph (c) or (k), and(ii) as respects which the court makes a declaration that the offence related to a football match, to a football organisation or to a person whom the accused knew or believed to have a prescribed connection with a football organisation,(w) any offence under section 31 of the Crime and Disorder Act 1998 (racially or religiously aggravated public order offences) as respects which the court makes a declaration that the offence related to a football match, to a football organisation or to a person whom the accused knew or believed to have a prescribed connection with a football organisation,(x) any offence under section 1 of the Malicious Communications Act 1988 (offence of sending letter, electronic communication or article with intent to cause distress or anxiety)—(i) which does not fall within paragraph (d), (e), (m), (n), (r) or (s),(ii) as respects which the court has stated that the offence is aggravated by hostility of any of the types mentioned in section 66(1) of the Sentencing Code (racial hostility etc), and(iii) as respects which the court makes a declaration that the offence related to a football match, to a football organisation or to a person whom the accused knew or believed to have a prescribed connection with a football organisation,(y) any offence under section 127(1) of the Communications Act 2003 (improper use of public telecommunications network)—(i) which does not fall within paragraph (d), (e), (m), (n), (r) or (s),(ii) as respects which the court has stated that the offence is aggravated by hostility of any of the types mentioned in section 66(1) of the Sentencing Code (racial hostility etc), and(iii) as respects which the court makes a declaration that the offence related to a football match, to a football organisation or to a person whom the accused knew or believed to have a prescribed connection with a football organisation.”(7) In paragraph 4—(a) the words from “In this Schedule” to “Part II of this Act.” become sub-paragraph (1), (b) after sub-paragraph (1) insert—“(1A) In this Schedule “football organisation” means an organisation which is a regulated football organisation for the purposes of Part 2 of this Act.”, and(c) after sub-paragraph (2) insert—“(3) The provision that may be made by an order made by the Secretary of State for the purposes of this Schedule includes provision that a person has a prescribed connection with a football organisation where— (a) the person has had a connection of a prescribed kind with a football organisation in the past, or(b) the person will or may have a connection of a prescribed kind with a football organisation in the future.”(8) In section 14 (main definitions), after subsection (2) insert—“(2A) “Regulated football organisation” means an organisation (whether in the United Kingdom or elsewhere) which—(a) relates to association football, and(b) is a prescribed organisation or an organisation of a prescribed description.”(9) Section 23 (further provision about, and appeals against, declarations of relevance) is amended in accordance with subsections (10) and (11).(10) In subsection (1), for the words from “related to football matches” to the end of the subsection substitute “—(a) related to football matches,(b) related to a particular football match or to particular football matches,(c) related to a football organisation, or(d) related to a person whom the defendant knew or believed to have a prescribed connection with a football organisation,as the case may be.”(11) In subsection (5), for the words from “related to football matches” to the end of the subsection substitute “—(a) related to football matches,(b) related to one or more particular football matches,(c) related to a football organisation, or(d) related to a person whom the defendant knew or believed to have a prescribed connection with a football organisation.”(12) This section does not apply in relation to an offence committed before the day appointed by regulations under section 178(1) for its coming into force (so far as it has not previously been commenced by section 178(4)(ta)).”Member’s explanatory statementThis amendment modifies the list of relevant offences in Schedule 1 to the Football Spectators Act 1989 which trigger the making of a football banning order to include, in particular, certain offences relating to race or religion and certain online hate offences.
These amendments give effect to a commitment made by the Prime Minister in the immediate aftermath of the final of Euro 2020. The whole of England was disappointed by the outcome, and that is understandable. What was not excusable or acceptable was the racist abuse directed at certain England players. Your Lordships will also be aware of the ubiquitous slow drip of hateful online abuse many high-profile footballers are subjected to. In the light of that behaviour, the Prime Minister announced that we would legislate to extend the football banning order regime to cover online abuse, and that is the purpose of these amendments. In Committee, the noble Lord, Lord Bassam, tabled an amendment directed to the same end. In response, I said that the Government would look to legislate as soon as possible, and that is what we are doing. I hope the noble Lord will feel that his objectives have now been met and will welcome these amendments.
Football banning orders were first introduced in 1989. The intention of these new clauses is to amend the operation of the football banning order regime to enable a court to impose a football banning order against persons convicted of online hate offences connected to football. The amendments will also enable a court to impose a football banning order for other race, religious or sexual orientation hate offences against persons with a prescribed connection to a football organisation where the incident would not fall under the existing coverage. This will prevent such offenders propagating their criminal, hateful views at football matches. I sincerely hope that this measure will also deter others from engaging in similar behaviour that is so harmful to the victims and our national game.
Amendment 96B will amend the Football Spectators Act 1989 to enable the list of relevant offences in Schedule 1 to that Act to be amended by regulations subject to the affirmative procedure. A person can receive a football banning order following conviction for a relevant offence. There is no intention to use the new regulation-making power to add to the schedule offences that do not involve violence, disorderly behaviour or harm to others, or a risk or threat of such, nor to add offences which are not football-related. Rather, this will enable the Secretary of State to ensure that the list of relevant offences for the purposes of football banning order proceedings can be kept up to date and relevant in the event of amendment to the Acts listed in the schedule or developing trends of harm or disorder relating to football, such as online hate offences.
Finally, Amendment 96C will amend the consideration that a court undertakes in deciding whether to impose a football banning order against a person convicted of a football-related offence under the 1989 Act. It will remove the requirement that the convicted person must pose an identifiable risk of violence or disorder at or in connection with football matches. I must again reference the vile online racist abuse of England players after the Euro 2020 final. Under the current test, courts may not be convinced that offenders convicted of racist online offences pose an identifiable risk of violence and disorder at matches. However, I believe that it is imperative to ensure that such offenders can be prevented from spreading their hateful words at football matches. Courts will retain their powers of discretion if there are particular circumstances relating to the offence or the offender which would make it unjust to impose a football banning order, with a requirement that they state in open court their reasons for not doing so.
We can all agree that there is no place for racist abuse in football—or more widely—and it is right that we should send a strong signal that those convicted of racist abuse or other unconscionable hatred connected to football should not be allowed to attend football matches to spread their poisonous prejudices. This is a sensible and much-needed change to the legislation governing football and I ask your Lordships to endorse it.
My Lords, can the Minister confirm the impact these amendments will have on homophobic abuse of soccer players? I think he mentioned it once. Tom Daley on Channel 4’s “Alternative Christmas Message” talked about the fact that no professional footballers in the UK have publicly said they are gay: fear of public reaction is probably a big part of the reason why. In fact, globally, it is my understanding that only one professional soccer player has come out as gay, and he plays in Australia.
People have shied away from a hierarchy of diversity, but I have always believed that racism is a bigger problem than homophobia: some people can hide their sexuality, but few people of colour can hide their race. Having said that, people can hide their religious beliefs; there are many white Muslims, for example. These amendments cover religion but not, at least immediately obviously, sexuality. Racism is still a huge problem, and these amendments are welcome, but where is the clear and unambiguous message in these amendments that homophobic abuse directed at football players is just as unacceptable as racism and Islamophobia? It is not clear to me.
Even the Government’s explanatory statement for these amendments refers to
“certain offences relating to race or religion and certain online hate offences.”
If I am having to search the many and various pieces of legislation mentioned in these amendments to satisfy myself that people like me are covered, then these amendments do not send a clear and unambiguous message that homophobic abuse is as unacceptable as racism and Islamophobia. The Law Commission in its recent report on hate crime identifies the need to place sexual and gender diversity hatred on the same footing as race hatred, so what assurances can the Minister give in this case? I do not want perfection to be the enemy of the good, and there will still be an opportunity to provide clarification at Third Reading, but I look forward to the Minister’s response.
My Lords, it would be remiss of me not to thank the Government for bringing forward these amendments. They very much fulfil the objectives that I set out in moving my amendments in Committee. Imagine my slight surprise when I received an email shortly before Christmas from one of the officials telling me about this, though it had been suggested to me, and that the announcement was going to be made on Boxing Day—not a day traditionally used for parliamentary consideration. But I was pleased to hear that the Government were going to bring forward the amendments. I offered at one stage to co-sign them, but that seems to have got lost in the mists.
I am not entirely convinced that we would have seen these amendments if we had not brought them forward in Committee and threatened the Government with, I suspect, the possibility of a defeat on them. It has taken the Government too long to get to this point. Boris Johnson himself mentioned it back in July, but we have been campaigning on this issue for some years, and these amendments are long overdue.
Turning to the points raised by the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, I too would like to see some clarification as to whether these amendments will cover homophobic abuse. It is fair to say that many of the football clubs are well ahead of the Government on this already. I know that my own football club, Brighton & Hove Albion, has long taken the view that homophobic abuse is unacceptable and made that very clear, not just in its programmes and publicity but in its action. That is to be welcomed. Many clubs have adopted that approach and now take pride in supporting gay footballers and ensuring that people do not get abused in that way at games. That is to be welcomed, but we need some legislative clarity.
I have one further point that I wish to pursue with the Government. The Bill is an opportunity to cover online abuse wherever it manifests. Although football understandably is a natural focus for this because, let us face it, that is where a lot of racist abuse has been channelled over the last few years, particularly last summer, I challenge the Government to bring forward a further amendment which covers other sports. We are all very conscious and aware of the racism that is there in other sports and sporting activities, and the abuse that many black and minority-ethnic cricketers, in particular, have suffered.
We should try to deal with the whole package, and it would be a good challenge for the Government to meet to bring forward amendments that we and, I am sure, other Members of your Lordships’ House would support at Third Reading. We would be more than happy to use our drafting talents to make sure it happened. It would clarify once and for all the position for all sports men and women across the UK, and it would send a strong and important message that this is just not acceptable behaviour in any shape or form in any sporting arena or in any sport.
I support the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, in seeking clarity about homophobic abuse; that is really important. I would like the Government to bring forward further amendments to cover other sports at Third Reading. I do not think that it is beyond the wit of the Government they have clever and cunning draftspeople at their beck and call and there are plenty of us in this House who would want to support that and sign up to that agenda.
I place on record my thanks to the Minister and Ministers generally, to the Home Office staff who have supported them, and to our own staff in our Labour Lords team who did the original drafting, because this is an important step forward and we should recognise that.
My Lords, I too support these amendments and thank the Government for their clarity; there were some other sections about which we were not sure in terms of their language. Again, sorry to sound as though I am stuck in a groove: in the Stephen Lawrence inquiry and its recommendations there is a definition of a racist incident and a homophobic incident. Parliament, in the other place, accepted all 70 recommendations. If you want to find how to phrase what the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, is talking about, it is already there in the Stephen Lawrence inquiry report and the recommendations that we made.
The thing about the law is that it must be predictable, easy to understand and not shrouded in mystery. I support the noble Lord, Lord Paddick. The Government need to be clear about this and the language because the other place accepted all 70 recommendations. It is in there, and it would be a mistake not to be very clear about the whole question of these homophobic incidents and the abuse that some people have suffered. I would support the Government in finding that language. They could put in similar words about what they have actually done about racism.
My Lords, I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, that it is very important to have clarity that homophobic abuse is here covered. For my part, I understand—I ask the Minister to confirm whether he agrees—that the substance of these amendments does cover homophobic abuse, in particular proposed new subsection (6) of the new clause, which refers to Part 3A of the Public Order Act 1986, which, as I understand it, specifically covers homophobic abuse, as does proposed new subsection (6)(x)(ii), which refers to Section 66(1) of the Sentencing Code, which, again, I understand covers homophobic hostility as well as racial hostility. But clarity is absolutely essential here.
My Lords, I thank noble Lords for their contributions to this debate. In answer to the noble Lords, Lord Paddick, Lord Bassam and Lord Pannick, I can happily clarify that this includes homophobic and misogynistic hate speech, and all other forms of hate speech. The noble Lord, Lord Pannick, is absolutely right: it is under Section 3A of the Public Order Act 1986. I am afraid I do not have the Sentencing Code so I will have to look into that for him.
The core amendments apply to online hate speech where the court has found on sentencing that the offence was aggravated by racial or religious hostility, or hostility related to disability, sexual orientation or transgender identity. This reflects the five types of hate crime recognised by the law, which I think is the Sentencing Code.
I agree with the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Bassam, about other sports. I have heard the DCMS Minister answer questions on this, and there will of course be other opportunities in other Bills coming up, which I suspect will also have something to say on the subject, but I will take it back to both departments.
Before the Minister sits down, could I clarify what he just said? It threw another confusion at me. He said it covers misogynistic hate speech. I am not sure misogyny is a hate crime. Therefore, I am not sure the Minister is correct on that point. Perhaps he could clarify.
My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister for his comments and his agreement to take that away. For our part, we would very much welcome a discussion on that with him and his officials, if that is at all possible. We are some way off from the Third Reading, and, clearly, we would be in a position to bring forward an amendment if that would help.
It would be for the good if we could have some cross-party agreement on this, because it is an issue on which we can have a shared view. That shared view adds extra emphasis and import to the progress that we make. We would very much welcome the Minister facilitating that discussion, and obviously we would be delighted if the Government were to concede and bring forward amendments which cover all other sports as well.
Amendment 96A agreed.