Charges reported under the Offensive Behaviour at Football and Threatening Communications (Scotland) Act 2012 in 2013-14

Analysis of charges reported under the act to provide information about the nature of the charges, the accused and the victims of incidents, reported under offensive behaviour at football and threatening communications legislation.

Executive Summary

  • In 2013-14 there were 203 charges of offensive behaviour at regulated football matches reported by the police to the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service (COPFS). This is a reduction of 24% on the 267 charges reported in 2012-13[1].
  • In the 2013-14 period, the accused were mostly males. Of the 203 charges, 196 (97%) involved a male accused.
  • The age profile of the accused was slightly younger in 2013-14 than in 2012-13. The mean age of the accused in 2013-14 was 23, compared with 27 in 2012-13 and 87% of the accused were aged 30 or below, compared with 74% in this age group in 2012-13.
  • The accused had affiliation with Rangers in 59 (29%) charges and with Celtic in 44 (22%) charges, which were the two most common affiliations. The number of charges against those with the most common affiliations has decreased from last year, though the proportions are broadly similar (2012-13: Rangers 85 (32%), Celtic 68 (25%)). Motherwell was the third most common affiliation in 19 of the charges (9%).
  • The Act criminalises hateful, threatening and otherwise offensive behaviour that is likely to incite public disorder in relation to football. The nature of the offence was threatening (including engaging in fighting or challenging others to fight) in 49% of charges (and increased from 44% in 2012-13); hateful in 36% of charges (a decrease from 47% in 2012-13), and 'other' (reference to support of terrorist organisations) in 28% of charges (and increased from 17% in 2012-13). Some charges contained reference to more than one category.
  • Of the 73 charges relating to hateful behaviour, 82% were related to religious hatred, 23% to racial hatred, and less than 1% (a single charge) related to sexual orientation. Some of the charges contained reference to more than one category. The proportion of hateful behaviour charges that referenced religion was slightly lower than 2012-13 (when it was 85%), while the proportion of hateful behaviour charges that referred to race was an increase from 15% in 2012-13.
  • Four religions were the focus of the 60 charges that referenced religion: Roman Catholicism, Protestantism, Judaism and Islam, with some charges containing reference to more than one category. Forty-six charges (77%) included behaviour that was derogatory towards Roman Catholicism, this has decreased from 88 charges in 2012-13. Eleven charges (18%) included behaviour derogatory towards Protestantism, reduced from 16 charges in 2012-13. Three charges (5%) included behaviour derogatory towards Judaism (two charges in 2012-13), and two charges (3%) had behaviour derogatory towards Islam (no charges in 2012-13).
  • A substantial proportion of the charges (35%) took place in Glasgow, which may reflect the city's hosting of matches that draw some of the largest crowds. However, the number and proportion of charges that took place in Glasgow was down from 2012-13 (when 42% occurred in that local authority area).
  • Fewer charges occurred in football stadiums in 2013-14 than 2012-13. There were 109 charges in stadiums in 2013-14 (54% of the total), compared with 165 in 2012-13 (62% of the total). Of the 109, 21% were at Celtic Park and 16% at Ibrox. This is similar to 2012-13 when 24% of charges were at Celtic Park and 20% of charges were at Ibrox. Fewer charges took place at both stadiums in 2013-14 than in 2012-13.
  • There was a rise in the number of charges taking place outside of football stadiums. Thirty-four percent (70 charges) took place on a main street i.e. in a town or city centre, compared to only 22% (60 charges) in 2012-13.
  • Charges were connected to 61 football fixtures. Three fixtures accounted for 23% of the total charges (Airdrieonians v Rangers on 23 August 2013; Falkirk v Raith Rovers on 7 December 2013; and Motherwell v Celtic on 6 December 2013).
  • Of the 203 charges reported in 2013-14, 24% took place on Fridays. In 2012-13 there were no charges reported on Fridays. This may reflect the scheduling of more matches on Friday evenings.
  • In 58% of the charges the general community were the target of the abuse, specific members of the public were targeted in 36% of charges, the police in 12% of charges, and other workers in 7%. The number of charges for each victim type was lower than in 2012-13 but the proportion directed at the general community was higher (58% in 2013-14 compared to 46% in 2012-13).
  • From the 203 charges reported to COPFS, court proceedings have commenced in 160. Many cases are on-going and information about final convictions will be presented in Scottish Government 'criminal proceedings' publications[2]. Provisional data however shows that of the 66 that have been concluded, there were 43 convictions (65%) which is similar to the proportion of convictions from concluded charges that was reported in the 2012-13 report. The most common penalty was a fine (63% of convictions). There were two custodial sentences; the same number as in 2012-13.
  • Section 6 of the Offensive Behaviour at Football and Threatening Communications (Scotland) Act 2012 introduced the offence of 'threatening communications' to address threats of serious harm and threats that incite hatred on religious grounds. In 2013-14 there were nine communication charges reported to COPFS. Six of these charges were football related. One of the charges made reference to religion, one included a racial element, and three referenced support of a terrorist group.


Email: Ben Cavanagh

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