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Closed petition Make chanting about tragedies and death at a football match a criminal offence

I call on the Government to make chanting, shouting, singing, and mocking about tragedies and death, at football matches, a hate crime.

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There is no place for hate in football.

All chants about ALL tragedies and deaths must stop.

97 Liverpool Fans were unlawfully killed as a direct result of the failures and negligence of South Yorkshire Police force at Hillsborough.

Reports, investigations, and an inquest all concluded that Liverpool fans were not to blame.

The College of Policing and National Police Chiefs' Council acknowledge these failures.

Some rival football fans see those deaths and the suffering of survivors as football 'banter' and continue to chant about Hillsborough, and Heysel, at matches.

Make it a criminal offence.

This petition is closed All petitions run for 6 months

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Government responded

This response was given on 25 April 2023

The Government is committed to tackling all harmful behaviours at football matches. Existing legislation can be used to prosecute those engaging in chanting about tragedies and death at football.

Read the response in full

The Government recognises the hurt and distress caused by abhorrent chanting, shouting and singing about tragedies and deaths at football matches. We know that these are highly sensitive and emotive issues and are clear that there is absolutely no place for this kind of behaviour at football matches.

We have a strong framework of public order and football-specific legislation in England and Wales that is designed to reduce the risk of disorder at football, underpinned by football banning orders (FBOs) which are designed to deter disorderly behaviours and prevent further offending.

Existing law can be used to prosecute offenders chanting or shouting about tragedies and death at football matches. The Public Order Act 1986 (POA) provides for situations where threatening or abusive language can meet the threshold for arrest and prosecution. Section 4A of the POA sets out that a person is guilty of an offence if, with intent to cause a person harassment, alarm or distress, they use threatening, abusive or insulting words or behaviour, thereby causing that or another person harassment, alarm or distress. Section 5 of the POA sets out that a person is guilty of an offence if they use threatening or abusive words or behaviour, within the hearing or sight of a person likely to be caused harassment, alarm or distress.

The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) has provided guidance to policing on tragedy chanting and the application of the POA. The context of the language used to relate to tragedies and death is clearly important. Certain tragedies are widely known in football. Those engaging in tragedy chanting at football matches use words chosen plainly and deliberately, designed to reference the tragedies and have an impact on those listening. The CPS takes a robust approach to the prosecution of individuals who have used threatening or abusive language at football matches that meets the threshold for arrest and prosecution. Relevant sections of the POA have been used in such prosecutions.

Accordingly, we believe that no further changes to the law are necessary.
The hate crime legislative framework would not be an appropriate vehicle for addressing this type of offending. Courts can impose stronger sentences for criminal offences when immediately, before, during or after the offence was committed, the offender demonstrated hostility towards the victim based upon the victim’s protected characteristic(s) – specifically, the victim’s actual or perceived race, religion, sexual orientation, disability, or transgender identity - or where the offence was motivated by such hostility. The type of offending referenced in this e-petition would be unlikely to involve hostility directed towards individuals because of their particular protected characteristic(s), but in any case, a court would have the power to impose a stronger sentence for the underlying public order offence if the relevant hostility were present.

An FBO must be imposed on conviction for both football-related s4A and s5 POA offences unless the court considers that there are particular circumstances relating to the offence or to the offender which would make it unjust in all the circumstances to do so. FBOs are a preventative behavioural order lasting between three and five years (six to ten years if a custodial sentence is also imposed) whereby the recipient must not attend a regulated football match. Additional conditions may also be applied to address offending behaviour. Breaching the conditions of an FBO is a criminal offence.

The Government will continue to work with the police and the CPS to ensure that the perpetrators of these offences feel the full force of the law and that this vile and distressing behaviour at football matches is stamped out.

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