Football fans convicted of online hate crime connected to the game are to be banned from attending matches in England and Wales.
The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) said new legal provisions will allow banning orders to be made for abuse involving racial or other hateful hostility which occurs online. The CPS will now be able to ask the courts for tougher penalties for those who are found guilty of what it calls hateful conduct.
Previously football banning orders could only apply to in-person offences.
The additional provisions will provide prosecutors with the means to invite the courts to provide tougher sentences for hate crime alongside their asking for a sentence uplift because of the aggravated nature of a hate crime.
The CPS said its legal guidance will instruct prosecutors to ask the court for banning orders in all instances where they are available, unless a court considers that there are particular circumstances relating to the offence or to the offender which would make it unjust in all the circumstances to do so.
Douglas Mackay, the CPS’s sports lead prosecutor, said: “Football banning orders are one of the many tools available to the justice system for imposition on offenders who are convicted of crimes related to our national game.
“This new CPS legal guidance gives prosecutors wider authority to request banning orders from the courts. It is another consequence for those guilty of shameful behaviour.
“Over recent years and months hate crimes relating to sporting events have been on the rise. The recent internal UK Football Policing Unit mid-season report has shown a significant rise in football-related criminality compared to pre-pandemic levels.”
The CPS said it is currently working with the police, clubs, player bodies and organisations like the Premier League, the English Football League, and the Football Association to explain how these crimes are prosecuted and what information is needed to pass the charging threshold and build strong cases.
Murray added: “At the CPS, we play a crucial role in tackling these crimes and making our national sport inclusive and safe to watch. There is no place for hate in football. Hate crime can have a profound impact on victims.”