HC Deb 14 March 1995 vol 256 c492W
Mr. Madden

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department, pursuant to his answer of 2 March,Official Report, column 655, when he proposes to negotiate a bilateral agreement with the Republic of Ireland; and if he will list those countries (a) with which the United kingdom has negotiated such bilateral agreements and (b) with which bilateral agreements are being negotiated.

Mr. Maclean

[holding answer 13 March 1995]: Following the implementation of the Football Spectators Act 1989, which extends only to England and Wales, we invited all countries who were members of the Union of European Football Associations, including the Republic of Ireland, to enter into bilateral agreements on corresponding offences. Following the disorder in Dublin on 15 February, my officials will again be raising with their Irish counterparts the prospects of an agreement.

We have also encouraged other member states which have ratified the 1985 European convention on spectator violence and misbehaviour at sports events and in particular at football matches to enter into such agreements with us.

Currently, we have bilateral agreements only with Scotland, Sweden and Italy. Unfortunately, it has not so far proved possible to reach more agreements. The negotiations themselves are usually long and tortuous, exacerbated by the fundamental differences between our legal system and that of the other country. Some countries see the restriction order, as set out in the 1989 Act, as a further criminal penalty which could be in breach of their own legal code through punishing a person twice for the same offence. There are also difficulties in the definitions of what constitutes a football-related offence in another country and whether they correspond to those offences set out in schedule 1 to the 1989 Act. Some countries, where hooliganism is not a significant problem, may not share the same priority in reaching an agreement over something which does not concern their own citizens, but only hooligans from this country. In some cases, on all but the most serious offences, a country may simply prefer as a matter of policy to deport a hooligan quickly without a court appearance, thereby removing the basis of a possible bilateral agreement.