Hibs fan jailed for confronting Rangers footballer has appeal against custodial sentence dismissed

Sheriff Principal Mhairi Stephen QC
Sheriff Principal Mhairi Stephen QC

A Hibernian fan who was jailed for confronting Rangers captain James Tavernier during a match has failed in an appeal to have his custodial term quashed.

Cameron Mack, 22, who was sentenced to 100 days’ imprisonment in April 2019 after pleading guilty to a charge of breach of the peace, claimed that the he ought to have been given an “alternative to custody”, but the Sheriff Appeal Court ruled that a custodial disposal was “justified”.

‘Breach of the peace’

Sheriff Principal Mhairi Stephen QC and Sheriff Peter Braid heard that Mack, of Port Seton, East Lothian, was arrested following a bad tempered clash in March 2019 between Hibs and Rangers at Easter Road Stadium.

The appellant, a season ticket holder, was detained after running from his seat and climbing over the advertising boards on to the side of the pitch as Mr Tavernier was about to collect the ball to take a throw-in.

He then kicked the ball away from Mr Tavernier before proceeding to push the player several times.

The appellant claimed he had had too much to drink and could recall little of the incident, but pled guilty at Edinburgh Sheriff Court to committing a breach of the peace by conducting himself in a “disorderly manner” and acting “aggressively” towards the footballer.

Summary Sheriff Adrian Cottam sentenced Mack, a first offender, to 100 days’ imprisonment – discounted from 150 days – and imposed a 10-year football banning order, saying that custody was the only sentence available because the accused’s actions could have provoked more crowd unrest.

However, he appealed against his sentence, arguing that the sheriff ought to have given “greater consideration” to a sentencing disposal which was an “alternative to custody”, given the terms of section 204 of the Criminal Procedure (Scotland) Act 1995.

It was submitted that the sheriff had placed “too much weight on the need for a deterrent sentence” and had “insufficient regard to the appellant’s personal circumstances and lack of previous offending”.

‘Custodial disposal justified’

But the appeal sheriffs ruled that the sheriff was entitled to impose a “deterrent sentence”, describing the appellant’s behaviour as “grossly disorderly and inflammatory” given the location and circumstances.

Delivering the opinion of the court, Sheriff Principal Stephen said: “This was a football match between two rival teams in the Scottish premier league. The incident was observed not only by spectators at Easter Road but it was also a live televised game and the incident was significantly publicised and reported on in the national news.

“His aggressive and violent action towards the Rangers captain was, in itself, a serious matter but the true gravity of the appellant’s behaviour is the potential to inflame and incite other spectators, especially those supporting Rangers, who may have reacted in a disorderly fashion.

“It is important to emphasise that the offence is one of breach of the peace and, of course, the essential component of that crime is that there is a significant threat to public safety or of serious disturbance in the community (stadium).

“Against that background the sheriff was entitled to regard punishment and deterrence as important. The circumstances of the offence justify a custodial disposal.”

She added: “Furthermore, the recent trend of unacceptable spectator behaviour at football matches such as has been publicised and reported on is a concern to the public generally and the football authorities in particular. The sheriff was correct to emphasise the need for a deterrent sentence to root out this sort of behaviour and to express society’s disapproval.

“The sheriff has given careful consideration to his sentencing decision; he considered the published guidelines from the Scottish Sentencing Council; the criminal justice social work report; and the appellant’s personal circumstances as a first offender in employment but in the specific circumstances of this offence was entitled to impose a deterrent sentence on the appellant after having regard to the provisions of section 204 of the Criminal Procedure (Scotland) Act 1995.

“Accordingly, we propose to refuse the appeal.”

© Scottish Legal News Ltd 2020

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