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01/08/2011

Sports' Troublemakers To Face Jail

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Sectarian chanting, or even staging a 'pitch invasion' at a soccer match is to attract a fine of up to £1,000.

Possession of fireworks or flares at a match may also mean a sentence of imprisonment of up to three months as new laws to improve spectator behaviour at major sporting events come into force today.

The Stormont Minister of Justice David Ford (pictured) said that the offences for indecent or sectarian chanting and pitch invasion have been commenced as part of a legislative package to create a more welcoming and family friendly environment at games.

Other provisions from the Justice Act (Northern Ireland) 2011 introduced include the offence of throwing missiles on to a pitch and the possession of alcohol on hired transport on the way to major events.

David Ford said: "These new laws demonstrate my commitment to make sporting events more family friendly.

"The three sporting associations - rugby, football and the GAA - have invested a great deal in making their major sporting events memorable for all the right reasons.

"However there still can be times when the actions of a few can spoil it for the majority of fans and this new legislation allows the law to deal with those individuals," he said, adding his thanks to the Department of Culture Arts and Leisure, the sporting associations and SportNI for their support in the drafting of the legislation and that the Justice Act (Northern Ireland) 2011 received Royal Assent on 4 May 2011 and that it's provisions come into effect today.

Also included is the offence of throwing an article capable of causing injury; possessing fireworks or flares at a match which can attract a sentence of imprisonment of up to three months; and the offence of possessing alcohol on private hire vehicles on the way to sporting events which can also attract a sentence of imprisonment of up to three months.

The private vehicle operator can also be fined up to £2,500 for permitting alcohol onto the vehicle.

Welcomed

The Alliance MLA Trevor Lunn has welcomed the laws introduced by his party leader, the Justice Minister David Ford, to tackle sectarianism and disorder at major sporting events, which came into operation today, saying they are a key part of helping build a shared future.

"These laws are extremely important as they will help crack down on sectarianism and disorder at major sporting events.

"The introduction of these measures sends out a very strong message that sport is for all. Alliance has been working for a long time to have these types of laws introduced and it is very pleasing that our Leader David Ford has been the person to carry this through.

"This is a good day for sport here and a good day for people who want to see a genuinely shared future in Northern Ireland. I am very pleased that the laws are now in place to help sport give sectarianism and trouble the red card," he said.

(BMcC/GK)

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