Trust Reps meet with Police 2009

Published on Thursday 31st December, 2009 by Celtic Trust

Two of the office bearers of the Trust met with two senior officers of Strathclyde Police recently to discuss matters of concern which have been raised at various times by our members. The following is a brief report of that meeting and a summary of the Police response to our points of concern. The meeting lasted well over an hour and during that time there was a full and frank exchange of views. A number of issues were discussed. Our viewpoint on these issues will be very familiar to our members, and the wider Celtic support, so this report will concentrate on the Police response to the questions we raised. We have summarised this below with no commentary. As this meeting took place just a few days before the latest game vs. Rangers much, but not all of the discussion, centred around that fixture. The Police response was as follows:

 

General points

1 Their main concern at all times must be public safety and action will be taken if this is judged to be at risk 2 They strive to be even-handed in their dealings with both home and away fans 3 They are keen to influence fan behaviour before the game begins and individual officers are encouraged to be proactive in their dealings with fans and are also encouraged to use discretion and common sense in targeting those groups of supporters who may be the most challenging in terms of any action which may need to be taken by the police. 4 The police meet with the security personnel of both Clubs before a Celtic vs. Rangers match to discuss matters of security including fan and player conduct. 5 Where possible police officers with experience and knowledge of the ‘Glasgow scene’ are deployed at the interface with fans as these officers are more skilled in differentiating high spirits from more threatening behaviour

 

Particular points

Sectarian/racist behaviour/chanting With particular reference to the Famine Song, they acknowledged that this was heard long and loud during the match vs. Rangers in early September 2008 but stated that at that point they were awaiting clarification from the Crown Office to confirm that the singing of this constituted a criminal offence. Ten days after the match the Crown Office confirmed what everyone else seemed to already know i.e. that this ‘song’ was racist and offensive and actionable under the law. However there is currently a further problem with this piece in that it appears that some words have been changed and this removes the racist element. The police have an anti-sectarian section and they were clear that action would be taken against any person acting in a sectarian/racist manner and indeed several people have already been prosecuted for such actions. Movement of fans from designated to other seats within the Stadium The Police feel that large numbers of fans moving about the stadium is a threat to safety. They cited the recent cup match vs. Queens Park where prior to the game fans were being urged to go to a particular part of the stadium in order to create a bit of atmosphere. While they felt that this was not being done with any malicious intent they were fearful of overcrowding in that part of the stadium and perhaps of flashpoints being created between fans competing for a limited number of seats and thus had prevented some fans from moving. Flags and banners The police have no objection per se to these, provided that they are not offensive in any way. In fact they welcome banners etc particularly during games at which there a many empty seats as spreading these on the seats deters fan movement. It is Club officials who decide whether or not banners and flags should be shown within Celtic Park. We were advised that if any fan or group of fans wished to bring a large banner into the ground then they should contact Celtic and discuss this prior to the game. (The Trust will put this on the agenda for our next meeting with Celtic officials and report back to members on this matter.) Drums and other similar instruments are viewed in the same manner as banners. However the wishes of other fans seated around the drummer must be considered!!! Particular groups The stated position of the Police is that there is no agenda against particular or named groups. Searches There are manuals giving guidelines on police procedures for policing large public gatherings such as sporting events, concerts etc. (Interesting enough the one for sporting events is known as the ‘Green Book’). When the police receive intelligence that supporters are being encouraged to take objects, such as flares, into grounds then they will carry out searches of the person. This apparently was what caused the searches which many of our fans experienced at the last game at Ibrox. However these searches should be carried out with sensitivity and discretion and with regard to gender. Video recordings These are used to help identify persons who may be involved in incidents. The recordings are kept for 28days and if not needed are destroyed after that length of time. Besides the CCTV cameras which are located throughout the city and which largely go unnoticed the police also use handheld cameras which are very visible. They did agree that these can be used in a way which is provocative and we were assured that use of these is carefully monitored whether or not the footage is used for identification purposes. Training of officers deployed to use these cameras is ongoing and is informed by this monitoring process.

 

Conclusion

The meeting was reasonably cordial and positive. We have been given a named contact in the local Police Station and we propose to use this if members contact us about any issue.

 
 

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