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Commercial Law Appeal Case

Info: 1814 words (7 pages) Law Essay
Published: 3rd Nov 2020

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Commercial Law

Introduction

My report will be based on the appeal case between Cameron Mack and the Procurator Fiscal, Edinburgh. Mack will be appealing the sentence imposed, for the crime he committed, Breach of the Peace. The appeal case was heard by Sheriff Principal MM Stephen QC and Appeal Sheriff P Braid on the 3rd July 2019 at the Sheriff Court.

The Case

During the Scottish Premiership match between Hibernian Football Club and Glasgow Rangers Football Club on the 8th March 2019, the Appellant Cameron Mack ran from several rows up in the stand, climbed over the advertising board and entered the field of play. The then Hibs season ticket holder continued towards the Rangers Captain, James Tavernier, and as the player was about to pick the ball up near the advertising boards on the Main Stand side, Mack proceeded to kick the ball away from him. After the 21-year-old kicked the ball away, he began to act in an aggressive manner towards the Rangers Captain, repeatedly pushing him on the body.

Mack’s solicitor stated that at the time of the events there were two factors that may have contributed to his client’s abnormal behaviour that day. The first being the excessive amount of alcohol that his client had consumed before the game and secondly the stress he was currently under due to his daughter, no further details were provided on the second matter. The Sheriff stated that the levels of the alcohol in his system may have given him the “Bravado to undertake such a stupid and aggressive enterprise” but were ultimately not a justification for the crime he committed. He also stated that his mental state regarding his daughter was again not a justification for the crime committed. 

The Appellant who had no previous convictions was charged with Breach of the Peace under section 5 of the Public Order act 1986[1] at Edinburgh Sheriff Court on 11th March 2019, no sheriff was named. Cameron pled Guilty to the charge. The Sheriff stated that a custodial sentence was the only sentence suitable, due to his act being a serious threat to public safety. He imposed a sentence of 150 days in prison which he later discounted to 100 days due to an early plea. Mack also had a football banning order posed on him prohibiting him from attending any regulated football match within the UK for a period of 10 years.

"Conduct severe enough to cause alarm to ordinary people and threaten serious disturbance to the community" is the definition of Breach of the Peace given by Scottish Law. It is stated that “a person can be found guilty if they use threatening or abusive words or behaviour” that is “likely to cause harassment, alarm or distress”.

The Sheriff Court

In the Scottish Justice System, there are 3 main courts, District Court, Sheriff Court and the High Court. In this case the sheriff court. The Sheriff Court is typically considered to be the busiest court within the Scottish Justice System. Since 1975 Scotland has been separated into 6 areas known as Sheriffdoms:

  • Grampian, Highland and Islands
  • Tayside, Central and Fife
  • Lothian and Borders
  • Glasgow and Strathkelvin
  • South Strathclyde, Dumfries and Galloway
  • North Strathclyde

Each Sheriffdom is spilt up into districts with the exception of Glasgow and Strathkelvin. Each of the 6 sheriffdoms has a Sheriff Principal, selected by the Queen, who is designated to control the work of his/her Sheriffdom. The sheriff Principal is responsible for the timely completion of cases. The principal typically hears appeal cases against his or her Sheriffs in cases such as divorce.

There are currently 49 Sheriff court in Scotland. The Sheriff court will hear cases of all crimes within the district other than the more serious offences such as Murder and Rape. A maximum of 5 years imprisonment can be imposed on an individual, by a Sheriff. However, there is no limit to the value of fine that can be enforced. In Scottish Criminal Cases there are 3 possible verdicts, Guilty, Not Guilty and Not Proven. The Not Proven verdict is exclusive to Scotland and is typically the result of a lack of evidence.

The sheriff court also hears appeals, usually against the sentence imposed. In case SAC/2019/000272/AP[2] that is what happened. Cameron Mack appealed his sentence of 100 days.

The Appeal

The appellant was fighting the fact that under sub section 2 of Section 204 of the Criminal Procedure (Scotland) Act 1995[3], “ a court shall not pass a sentence of imprisonment on a person of or over twenty-one years of age who has not been previously sentenced to imprisonment or detention by a court in any part of the United Kingdom, unless the court considers that no other method of dealing with him is appropriate”. He fought that as a genuine first-time offender in employment he should be spared jail time.

Sub section 3B of the Section 204 of the Criminal Procedure (Scotland) Act 1995[4] states that “where a court passes such a sentence, the court must state its reason for the opinion that no other method for dealing with this person is appropriate”. The Sheriff Principal stated that football disorder was nothing new but highlighted the fact that there had been a recent rise of unacceptable spectator behaviour at football matches which caused concern to the general public and footballing authorities. The sheriff stressed the need for a deterrent sentence to root out this sort of behaviour to suit society’s disapproval, ultimately this was his reasoning for the sentence. Mack’s solicitor feels that too much emphasis has been put on this point. He believes that the focus on his sentence acting as a discouragement for others has weakened his client’s argument to the statutory provision, 204 of the Criminal Procedure (Scotland) Act 1995.

Decision and Reasoning

The sheriff’s response was that the appellants behaviour was “grossly disorderly and inflammatory given the location and circumstances”. He highlighted that the fixture between the two rival teams, Hibernian and Rangers, was not only observed by the spectators at the stadium but also to the many watching around the country, as this was a televised game. He also referred to the news frenzy surrounding this altercation at the time. The sheriff deemed his actions as a serious matter with the ability to incite a riot within the crowd, especially with the travelling Rangers support who were situated not too far away from the incident, to react in an aggressive manner. He stated that as a result of that, the original Sheriff was entitled to deem a punishment used as a deterrent, as important. He also further confirmed that a custodial sentence would suit this requirement.

After consulting the Scottish Sentencing Council and the Criminal Justice Social Work Report, as well as taking his personal circumstances, as a genuine first offender in employment into consideration he confirmed that the Sheriff was entitled to enforce the sentence of 100 days imprisonment to the appellant. After giving careful consideration to Section 204 of the Criminal Procedure (Scotland) Act 1995 the Sheriff Principal proposed to refuse the appeal.

My Opinion on the Outcome

In my opinion, considering Cameron’s clean criminal record and his contributions to society, in terms of his full-time employment, he was treated harshly. As an avid football supporter, I can understand that emotions can run high during the 90 minutes and that sometimes those emotions can take over, especially if you are under the influence of alcohol. As mentioned by the Sheriff, this was not the first time this has happened at a football match or any sporting event and it certainly won’t be the last. It is a strict rule that football supporters must not cross that line, typically advertising hoardings, and enter the field of play. It is a rule we all know well and in the most we all abide by it. I have no sympathy for those who are punished for not abiding with these rules.

However, my issue lies with the reasoning for sentencing in regards to the Sheriffs idea that Cameron will be made an example of to any prospective pitch invader. I recall not too long after this incident an Aston Villa player, namely Jack Grealish, was attacked on the football Pitch by a supporter of a rival team. To me this proves that making an example of Cameron will not work and the Sheriffs reasoning, in my opinion, is not completely correct. In fact, I believe that the more it is in the news the more likely people are to follow suit and copy it, much like the theory with video games. Although I would agree with the argument to that comment being, well how many people has it stopped from running onto the pitch, and yes of course this is impossible to prove, but there must therefore, like the Scottish Justice System states, cases must be found Not Proven if there is a lack of evidence. For me sentencing Cameron to community service and banning him from attending regulated football matches in the UK would have been satisfactory, especially considering this is his first offence. It is also clear, that if this game was not televised or was a lesser attended match, Cameron would not have faced the same punishment and would have been given a lesser sentence, potentially spared jail time. Is that fair? I’m not entirely sure it is. I feel that by that reasoning an individual can commit the same crime as Cameron did at lesser attended grounds and games that are not televised, while receiving a lesser punishment. Unfortunately for Cameron he was at that televised game when he decided to commit the offence. However, I would add that this case may well be used by the Scottish Courts going forward as a case in which they can refer to when faced with similar offences

References

[1] Legislation.gov.uk. (2019). Public Order Act 1986. [online] Available at: http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/1986/64/section/5 [Accessed 09 Nov. 2019].

[2] Scotcourts.gov.uk. (2019). Sheriff Appeal Court Judgments. [online] Available at: https://www.scotcourts.gov.uk/search-judgments/sheriff-appeal-court-judgment [Accessed 09 Nov. 2019].

[3] Legislation.gov.uk. (2019). Criminal Procedure (Scotland) Act 1995. [online] Available at: http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/1995/46/section/204 [Accessed 09 Nov. 2019].

[4] Legislation.gov.uk. (2019). Criminal Procedure (Scotland) Act 1995. [online] Available at: http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/1995/46/section/204 [Accessed 09 Nov. 2019].

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