QC states policing of celebrating Rangers football fans ‘was proportionate’

Rangers fans celebrated their club’s premier league title win.

BBC Scotland is reporting that a leading lawyer has concluded that the “overall approach” to policing crowds of celebrating Rangers fans was acceptable.

Police Scotland had asked John Scott QC to examine whether their actions were proportionate and had adhered to human rights principles.

In early March large groups of supporters gathered to mark their club’s premier league title win.

Officers made 28 arrests and handed out fixed penalty notices.

Fans had made their way to Ibrox Stadium and Glasgow’s George Square on the weekend of the 6 and 7 March, despite coronavirus pandemic rules outlawing large gatherings.

Police Scotland’s Chief Constable Iain Livingstone.

Following those events, Police Scotland’s Chief Constable Iain Livingstone  asked for Mr Scott’s review.

In a 10-page letter to the Scottish Police Authority, the lawyer said: “Whether in relation to protests or otherwise, the idea of policing by consent requires continuing care and attention, not least by government. Public confidence in policing is not determined by the activities of the police alone. Expectations arise from legislation and government messaging which should be as clear as possible.”

He acknowledged:

  • that there were difficulties created for the police “by the confused and changing state of the coronavirus restrictions”.
  • Mr Scott went on to say that clear communication was a key aspect of the policing of large gatherings.
  • He explained: “It is important that the public understands the general policing approach to be adopted.”
  • The QC added that there was a need for care in ensuring that peaceful assemblies and gatherings were facilitated “even if the relevant cause or purpose is unpopular and causes disruption”.

In the concluding sentence of the letter, Mr Scott said: “We are of the view that the overall approach to the policing of these events in Glasgow on 6 and 7 March 2021 was informed by, and consistent with, relevant human rights principles and considerations, in particular, lawfulness, necessity and proportionality.”

‘Frustration for all football fans’

After the raucous scenes three weekends ago, Deputy Chief Constable Malcolm Graham said the behaviour of some supporters was “disgraceful”.

Deputy First Minister John Swinney also condemned the scenes as “an absolute disgrace”, saying they had undermined recent progress against the virus.

In response to those comments, Rangers said it had been “of great frustration for all football fans across the world that they have not been able to watch their team within stadiums”.

The club’s statement added: “We reiterate the message from our manager, Steven Gerrard, who highlighted that fans should adhere to government guidelines – stay safe, socially distance and look after each other in this difficult time.”

Following the Old Firm match between Celtic and Rangers on Sunday there was no repeat of the scenes earlier in the month.

Both sets of fans were praised for sticking to lockdown restrictions after the midday kick-off which resulted in a 1-1 draw.

Despite a significant police presence at both Parkhead and Ibrox, police said the warning was observed by the vast majority.

Mr Scott recognised the good behaviour of supporters at the weekend, saying: “It is worth saying that clear communications and a consistent approach, together with detailed preparations and extensive engagement with the two clubs and fan base no doubt played a part in yesterday’s [Sunday] Celtic/Rangers game passing off with no significant disorder or large gatherings.”

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