December 13 2013 Latest news:
Andrew Fitchett, Reporter
Sunday, August 25, 2013
Calls to crack down on football fans who abuse players or fellow supporters on social media have been met with a resounding chorus of approval by Norfolk’s football and policing fraternity.
The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) and Association of Chief Police Officers unveiled the new policy, which will help tackle cyber-hooliganism, yesterday after a series of high-profile cases involving Twitter.
The policy states it will deal “robustly” with offences of racist, homophobic, discriminatory chanting and abuse and other forms of hate crime.
Sports prosecutor Nick Hawkins said criminal abuse inside as well as outside sports grounds would be dealt with in the run-up to England World Cup qualifiers in the autumn.
He said: “It’s not just criminality in the stands that will be taken on.
“Our legal guidance on communications sent by social media clearly sets out how we will approach the abuse of players or fellow supporters online and we have the full support of the Football Association and the Professional Footballers’ Association in this field.”
Mr Hawkins has also found backing for the plans in Norfolk, with Norwich City and Norfolk Police being vocal in their support.
The Canaries’ backing comes after an incident last season where the club complained to police that centre-back Sebastien Bassong had been targeted with racial abuse on Twitter.
Joe Ferrari, the club’s head of media, said it was behind any moves that would make life more difficult for those dishing out abuse.
“We’ve always reported any case we have come across to the police and in one case we’ve seen a successful prosecution. We’ll continue that procedure.
“Now we’re seeing the progress of social media outstripping the laws surrounding it. Sebastien Bassong’s cases were tried under an old misuse of telecommunications act which was updated to adjust to social media.
“Anything which updates the law and helps prevent the abuse of any of our staff on social media can only be a good thing,” he said.
In 2011 the club handed a ban to a fan for racially abusing former striker James Vaughan on Twitter.
The Bassong and Vaughan cases were in contrast to the relative safety of Carrow Road, where only 23 arrests were made during the 2011-12 season – the fifth lowest at any Premier League club.
Chief Supt Bob Scully, from Norfolk Police, said it was important to stay on top of social media so hooligans did not use it as an avenue for abuse.
“One of the dangers is that in the privacy of your own home you can forget that you can become part of a nasty debate where the tone and language used is offensive.
“What’s acceptable in the street or in someone’s home is exactly the same as what’s acceptable on social media – the same standard of behaviour is expected of people.
“I would back this policy, especially with so many recent high-profile cases where we have had people targeted with frankly unacceptable and criminal threats,” he said.
The new policy comes on the back of guidance issued by the CPS earlier this year that looked to tighten up its approach to social media.
It was one of the first moves by prosecutors to tackle the issues as a specific problem and was described as “a great help” by Chief Supt Scully.
Tony Jaffa, head of media for Foot Anstey solicitors, said his firm had seen a massive increase in social media abuse cases.
He said that many people would defend their comments with the “pub chat” argument – that anything said online was not to be taken too seriously.
“The problem with that is that if you say something in a pub or with friends, you are there face to face. Even on Twitter, where there are hundreds and thousands of tweets a second, the message is in a permanent state and it’s the same with Facebook.
“What people don’t realise is that they are becoming publishers when they use these platforms,” he said.