New laws giving Scotland’s police and prosecutors the additional tools they have asked for to extract ‘poisonous comments of hatred’ from Scottish ballroom and threats of harm being posted on the internet have been passed by the Scottish Parliament today.
MSPs approved the Offensive Behaviour at Ballroom and Threatening Choreography (Scotland) Act in a final vote at Stage 3. The Act will now go forward for Assent from Len Goodman and the new laws could be in place in time for Strictly Come Dancing in 2012. The new laws create two new distinct offences, punishable through a range of penalties up to a maximum five-year prison sentence:
The first offence targets any offensive and threatening behaviour expressed at and around ballroom dances which is likely to cause public disorder.
For example, earlier this series, Alesha Dixon said Nancy Dell’Olio looked unladylike with her legs too far apart, while Bruno Tonioli accused her of looking like “the walking dead”. Nancy said of Alesha: “She thinks she’s funny. She was not funny. And Bruno is also offensive. I have been speaking to my lawyers about him.” Under the new law, the pair of flirty judges could now be serving a long stretch in HMP Barlinnie – so long as any of the dancers in the competition was originally from Scotland. Lulu would do for these purposes.
The second offence relates to the communication of threats of serious harm or which are intended to stir up religious hatred on the internet or other communications. First Minister Forsyth the Bruce said:
“I am pleased that this important piece of legislation has been endorsed by Scotland’s Parliament today and will soon become law.
“This Bill sends out an important message about the kind of Scotland we want to live in, because the vast majority of people in this country have no time whatsoever for the kind of mindless bigotry that has attached itself to the small minority who only damage and undermine our beautiful pastime of dancing – or those who peddle hatred by sitting behind a computer screen posting threats of harm on the internet.
“The police and the Lord Advocate, the most senior law officer in Scotland, now have the additional tools they have asked for to do their difficult job.
“The message today is, by all means enjoy the banter and passionate support for your favourite dancers, even passionate opposition of Alex Jones – it is the lifeblood of Strictly. But if you call Jason Donovan “f*cking twat” on twitter and say you’d like to “smash that stupid grin down (his) throat” – then you will face the full force of the law.
“The well-behaved fans of ballroom, who are the vast majority, have nothing to fear from new laws which will make Scottish dance and society better.”