Charges reported under the Offensive Behaviour at Football and Threatening Communications (Scotland) Act (2012) in 2012-13

Information about charges reported to the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service (COPFS) by the police in 2012-13 under the Offensive Behaviour at Football and Threatening Communications (Scotland) Act (2012).

Executive Summary

  • In the 2012-13 there were 268 charges of 'offensive behaviour at regulated football matches' reported by the police to the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service (COPFS).
  • In this period, the accused were mostly males (in 99% of all charges) and under the age of 30 (73.5%). Police reports noted the accused being under the influence of alcohol in 27.6% of charges.
  • The Act criminalises hateful, threatening and otherwise offensive behaviour that is likely to incite public disorder in relation to football. Hateful behaviour was most common, in 46.6% of charges, threatening behaviour was second most common, in 44.4% of charges and other behaviour that a reasonable person would be likely to consider offensive was the category for 17.2% of charges. Some charges contained reference to more than one category.
  • All 46 charges for other offensive behaviour related to behaviour which referenced support to terrorist organisations.
  • Of the 268 charges, 125 included specific reference to religious and racial hatred as defined in the Act: 106 referred to religion and 19 to race. Three religions were the subject of charges: 88 charges (83.0%) were derogatory towards Roman Catholicism, 16 (15.1%) were derogatory towards Protestantism, and 2 (1.9%) were derogatory towards Judaism.
  • A substantial proportion of the charges took place in Glasgow (42.2%) which may reflect the city's hosting of matches which draw some of the largest crowds, at Celtic Park, Ibrox and Hampden stadiums.
  • Sixty-two percent of charges occurred in a football stadium. Of these, 24.2% were at Celtic Park, 20.0% at Ibrox and 8.5% at Hampden. Twenty two percent of charges occurred on a main street in a town or city centre and 8.9% at a railway station or on public transport.
  • The football affiliation of the accused was recorded by the police in 96% of the charges. Within the charges noted, 31.7% were described as having Rangers affiliations, 25.4% Celtic affiliations and 10.4% Hibernian affiliations.
  • Charges were connected to 80 football fixtures. Four fixtures accounted for almost 25% of all charges (Celtic v Rangers on 29 April 2012; Hiberian v Hearts on 19 May 2012; Hamilton v Falkirk on 5 January 2013; and St Mirren v Hiberian on 16 February 2013).
  • In 45.9% of charges the general community were the target of the abuse, specific members of the public were the target in 38.4% of charges and the police in 13.1%.
  • For the full period of the first 13 months of the act, there were 87 convictions from 128 concluded charges which is an overall conviction rate of 68%.
  • Section 6 of the Offensive Behaviour at Football and Threatening Communications Act (2012) introduced the offence of 'threatening communications' to address threats of serious harm and threats that incite hatred on religious grounds. In 2012-13 there were 20 threatening communications charges reported to COPFS. Eight of these charges were football related incidents. Six of the charges related to charges which incited hatred on religious grounds, 14 of the charges related to threats of serious harm. These charges are not analysed in any more detail within this report because of the small number of charges and the consequent risk of the disclosure of the identities of the accused and the fact that cases may still be ongoing.


Email: Ben Cavanagh

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