Page last updated at 11:29 GMT, Tuesday, 20 September 2011 12:29 UK

Justice Committee part 1

MSPs have been warned that proposed new anti-sectarian laws could be challenged under the European Convention of Human Rights as they examined the Offensive Behaviour at Football and Threatening Communications Bill on Tuesday 20 September.

Shelagh McCall of the Scottish Human Rights Commission told the Justice Committee that the very use of the word "offensive" could raise an immediate flag for a challenge under section 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

Ms McCall also advised the committee it should be sure there is "sufficient evidence there is a genuine social problem which needs to be addressed" and if so the legislation must be a "proportionate measure".

The bill proposes jail terms of up to five years for those convicted of carrying out offensive behaviour in and around football grounds or making threatening communications.

Convener Christine Grahame opened the committee by noting a letter had been received from anti-sectarian group Nil by Mouth which expressed disappointment it had not been required to give oral evidence.

Ms Grahame said the committee had agreed the written evidence received from Nil by Mouth was substantial.

Later the committee was told, by Professor of Computer Security at Edinburgh Napier University William Buchanan, the legislation proposed is "a step forward" but it seems to be scaling what happens in the real world on to the internet.

He said the internet is "a different space" and "nothing is ever black and white on the internet" and "things are said on the internet without immediate thought".

The professor warned the crime would be difficult to prosecute because while police would be able to trace the IP address for a particular computer on which a post was published they wouldn't be able to confirm the person who had definitely published it.

He also called for a panel of experts to be set up to be called upon on an ad hoc basis to assess cases and carry out general reviews.

Lord Advocate Frank Mullholland and Community Safety Minister Roseanna Cunningham gave evidence in the second part of the committee, which can be viewed below.

Justice Committee part 2

Justice Committee membership


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