Publication - Research publication

Charges reported under the Offensive Behaviour at Football and Threatening Communications (Scotland) Act 2012 in 2014-15

Published: 12 Jun 2015
Part of:
Research
ISBN:
9781785444609

Analysis of Charges Reported Under the Offensive Behaviour and Threatening Communications in Scotland in 2014-15

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25 page PDF

495.9 kB

Contents
Charges reported under the Offensive Behaviour at Football and Threatening Communications (Scotland) Act 2012 in 2014-15
3. Findings

25 page PDF

495.9 kB

3. Findings

All of the information reported here refers to 193 charges of 'offensive behaviour at football' that were reported to the COPFS in the 2014-15 financial year.

Before providing further details of these charges, it is worth highlighting that these charges do not relate to 193 separate incidents. Many of the incidents which took place involved more than one accused, and/or more than one breach of the law, and will therefore have resulted in more than one charge. The bulk of the analysis in this report relates to 'charges' rather than to separate incidents that were reported by the police to COPFS.

The 193 charges were generated from 118 separate incidents (each incident was contained in a single police report). This is shown in Table 1. The majority of incidents (85%) involved charges being issued to one accused, 7% of incidents resulted in charges to 2 accused and the remaining 8% involved charges being issued to 3 or more accused at the same time.

Table 1: Number of accused per incident*

Number of accused

No. of separate incidents

No. of charges

1

100

113

2

8

24

3

5

28

4

2

9

5

1

5

6

1

6

8

1

8

118

193

* The number of charges does not equal the number of incidents multiplied by the number of accused because some of the accused were charged for more than one offence within one incident.

The 193 charges involved 173 accused. The majority of the accused (92%) had only one charge; the remaining 8% had two or three charges. This is shown in Table 2.

Table 2: Number of charges per accused

Number of accused

No. of accused

% of accused

Total number of charges

1

159

92

159

2

8

5

16

3

6

3

18

Total

173

100

193

Details about the accused

Sex and age of the accused

In the 193 charges, there were 189 males and 4 females accused.

Table 3 shows the age breakdown of the accused for each of the 193 offensive behaviour charges in 2014-15. Thirty seven percent of the accused were aged 20 or under, and just over a third were aged 21-30. The age profile of the accused for the 193 charges was higher in 2014-15 than in 2013-14. In 2014-15, the mean age of the accused was 27. This is compared with a mean age of 23 in 2013-14 and 27 in 2012-13. Also, 72% of the accused were aged 30 or below, compared with 87% in 2013-14 and 74% in 2012-13.

Table 3: Age breakdown of accused

2012-13

2013-14

2014-15

Age group

Number of charges

%

Number of charges

%

Number of charges

%

Under 16

7

3

15

7

5

3

16-20

89

33

80

39

66

34

21-30

101

38

83

41

68

35

31-40

37

14

7

3

28

15

41-50

25

9

13

6

20

10

51-60

7

3

4

2

6

4

Over 60

2

1

1

1

0

-

Total

268

100

203

100

193

100

Alcohol and drug-related charges

The police reports describe the accused as being under the influence of alcohol in 39 charges, shown in Table 4. This finding may under-report the links between alcohol and offensive behaviour as it is possible that police did not always report whether the accused had been drinking or not. It is also not possible to quantity the amount of alcohol consumed in any given case.

Only a small number of charges were reported to have involved drugs. These were incidents where the police recorded that the accused was in possession of drugs or they suspected had taken drugs before the offence took place. Again, it is likely that this underestimates the number of cases where the accused was under the influence of drugs.

Table 4: Alcohol and drug-related charges

2012-13

2013-14

2014-15

Number of charges

%

Number of charges

%

Number of charges

%

Alcohol

73

27

55

27

39

20

Drugs

4

1

4

2

6

3

Total

75

29

59

29

45

23

Football affiliation of the accused

The analysis included looking at the football affiliation[5] of the accused; these are shown in Table 5. This information was gathered from the police reports. The affiliation of the accused was noted by the police in all of the 193 charges reported.

The accused had an affiliation with Rangers in 58 (30%) charges, in 30 (16%) charges, Celtic 19 (10%) charges, and Hibernian in 16 (8%). The number and proportion of charges where an affiliation with Rangers was noted has remained largely the same (there were 59 Rangers affiliations in 2013-14 (29%)), however Aberdeen has increased (from 11 charges (5%) in 2013-14), and Hibernian has also increased (from 9 charges (4%) last year). The proportion of accused that had an affiliation with Celtic has decreased (2013-14: 44 (22%). These findings are influenced by an incident at the Dundee United v Aberdeen fixture on 13 December 2014 where the affiliation of the accused was noted to be Aberdeen in 24 of the 31 charges.

Table 5: Football affiliation of the accused*

2012-13

2013-14

2014-15

Football affiliation

Number of charges

%

Number of charges

%

Number of charges

%

Aberdeen

<5

-

11

5

30

16

Ayr United

6

2

0

-

8

4

Celtic

68

25

44

22

19

10

Dundee

12

5

5

2

<5

-

Dundee United

0

-

0

-

11

6

England

0

-

0

-

11

6

Falkirk

17

6

<5

-

<5

-

Hamilton

9

3

<5

-

11

6

Hearts

13

5

12

6

6

3

Hibernian

28

10

9

4

16

8

Motherwell

<5

-

5

2

7

4

Partick Thistle

<5

-

9

4

<5

-

Raith Rovers

<5

-

6

3

5

2.6

Rangers

85

32

59

29

58

30

Other

20

8

14

7

11

6

Unknown

10

4

10

5

0

-

Total

268

100

203

100

193

100

* Those with charges <5 are included in 'other', therefore these are not included in the 'total' rows. 'Other' also includes football clubs not listed in the table (where there were fewer than five charges in 2012-13, 2013-14 and 2014-15).

Details about the offence

Nature of the offence

The Act criminalises behaviour that is hateful (section 1(2)(a)-(c)), threatening (section 1(2)(d)) or otherwise offensive to a reasonable person (section 1(2)(e) or otherwise offensive to a reasonable person (section 1(2)(e)) and is likely to incite public disorder.

It was not possible to determine from the COPFS database whether the charges were under section 1(2)(a), (b), (c), (d) or (e), and therefore the classification presented in Table 6 represents the researcher's understanding of the nature of the offence from the notes available in police reports. Offensive behaviour was classified as hate crime if there was a specific reference to religion, race[6], sexual orientation or other forms of hatred. The offence was classified as threatening where the accused threatened another person/people; it involved the accused acting in a disorderly or aggressive manner, making threats or challenging others to fight, or where they engaged in fighting. The Lord Advocate's guideline on the Act specify that 'otherwise offensive' behaviour included behaviour that shows support of terrorist organisations or glorifies or celebrates events involving the loss of life or serious injury.

Table 6 provides information about the nature of the offence. In 2014-15, the behaviour was considered 'hateful' in 58 (30%) of the 193 charges. The most common form of hateful behaviour was religious hatred (26% of the total charges). The behaviour was considered to be 'threatening' in 118 (61%) of the total charges. Twenty-six (15%) of the 193 charges included 'otherwise offensive' behaviour supporting terrorist groups or celebrating loss of life.

Compared to 2013-14 and 2012-13, a lower proportion of charges in 2014-15 were categorised as 'hateful'. This change was associated with a lower proportion of religious hatred, and also a lower proportion of racial hatred. A higher proportion of charges included forms of threatening behaviour than in 2013-14 but was similar to 2012-13. A lower proportion of charges included behaviour that supported terrorist groups or celebrated the loss of life when compared to 2013-14 and 2012-13.

Table 6: Nature of offence* ǂ

2012-13

2013-14

2014-15

Details of offensive behaviour

Number of charges

% of total number of charges (268)

Number of charges

% of total charges (203)

Number of charges

% of total number of charges (193)

Hate crime

125

47

73

36

58

30

Religion

106

40

60

30

50

26

Race

19

7

17

8

8

4

Sexual Orientation

0

-

1

1

0

-

Threatening behaviour

119

44

99

49

118

61

Support of terrorist groups or celebrating the loss of life ('otherwise offensive')

46

17

57

28

26

13

* Some charges contained reference to more than one category e.g. hateful and making threats, or hateful of which there was reference to religion and race, therefore these numbers do not add up to the total number of charges.

ǂ For reasons noted above, the classification in this table is not necessarily matched up with the a-e classifications of section 1 of the Act.

Table 7 shows the different religious groups that were targeted in each of the religious hatred charges. In 2014-15, of the 50 charges that included religious offences there were 4 religious groups that were the subject of the charges. In the majority of cases, Catholicism was the main target of the offensive behaviour (84% of the total religious hatred charges).

Table 7: Breakdown of religions that were targeted*

2012-13

2013-14

2014-15

Religion

Number of charges

% of 106 charges

Number of charges

% of 60 charges

Number of charges

% of 50 charges

Catholicism

88

83

46

77

42

84

Protestantism

16

15

11

18

6

12

Judaism

2

2

3

5

1

2

Islam

-

-

2

3

1

2

* In 2013-14 two charges were directed specifically at both Catholicism and Protestantism, therefore number of charges does not add up to 60.

Method of abuse

Table 8 outlines the method of abuse used within each charge. These refer to the method in which the abuse or offensiveness was conveyed. The category of 'generally offensive' refers to behaviour used by the accused that could not be categorised as singing, speech, banner, or gesture, and in any charges which involved the accused acting in a disorderly or aggressive manner, challenging others to a fight or physically engaging in fighting[7].

As in 2013-14 and 2012-13, the most common method of abuse in 2014-15 were generally offensive (present in 55% of charges), singing (present in 27% of charges) and speech (present in 13% of charges).

Table 8: Method of abuse used*

2012-13

2013-14

2014-15

Method

Number of charges

% of total charges (268)

Number of charges

% of total charges (203)

Number of charges

% of total charges

193

Banner

9

3

2

1

1

0.5

Gesture

48

18

6

3

9

5

Speech

137

51

72

35

26

13

Singing

112

42

75

37

53

27

Generally Offensive

82

31

79

39

107

55

* Some charges contained reference to more than one category.

Location of charges

Table 9 shows the local authority area where the charges occurred. The local authority area with the highest proportion of charges was Glasgow (24% of all charges reported). This is likely a reflection of the fact that Glasgow has the three largest football stadiums in Scotland. Other areas of note were charges took place were Dundee (17%) Edinburgh (16%), and South Lanarkshire (9%). The increase in charges in Dundee in 2014-15 was in relation to one game (Dundee United v Aberdeen on the 13th December 2014) when there were 31 charges. The increase in charges in South Lanarkshire was also in relation to one game (Hamilton v Motherwell on 24th September 2014) when there were 14 charges.

In terms of the number of charges per 100,000 of the population, Dundee City has the highest rate of charges (21 per 100k people), followed by Glasgow City (8 charges per 100k people) and East Ayrshire (8 charges per 100k people).

Table 9: Local authority area where charges occurred*

2012-13

2013-14

2014-15

Local Authority Area

Number of charges

%

Charges per 100k pop.

Number of charges

%

Charges per 100k pop.

Number of charges

%

Charges per 100k pop.

Aberdeen City

0

-

-

7

3

3

6

3

3

Aberdeenshire

12

4

5

2

1

1

0

-

-

Angus

5

2

5

2

1

2

0

-

-

D & Galloway

6

2

4

3

1

2

3

2

2

Dundee City

14

5

10

4

2

3

32

17

21

E. Ayrshire

0

-

-

7

3

6

10

5

8

E. Lothian

1

0.4

1

1

1

1

0

-

-

Edinburgh City

24

9

5

24

12

5

30

16

6

Falkirk

12

4

8

13

6

8

3

2

2

Fife

7

3

2

1

1

<1

23

12

6

Glasgow City

113

42

19

72

35

12

46

24

8

Highland

8

3

4

4

2

2

7

4

3

Moray

7

3

8

0

-

-

0

-

-

N. Ayrshire

1

0.4

1

0

-

-

0

-

-

N. Lanarkshire

9

3

3

43

21

13

0

-

-

Perth & K'ross

6

2

4

1

1

1

3

2

2

Renfrewshire

13

5

8

5

2

3

0

-

-

S. Ayrshire

2

1

2

3

1

3

0

-

-

S. Lanarkshire

23

9

7

7

3

2

17

9

5

Stirling

0

-

-

0

-

-

1

1

1

W Dun'shire

0

-

-

0

-

-

1

1

1

W. Lothian

0

-

-

2

1

1

11

6

6

Non- Scotland

5

2

-

2

1

-

0

-

-

Total

268

100

5

203

100

4

193

100

4

* Scottish Local Authority area population rate for 2014-15 is based on GROS mid-year population rates 2014, rounded to the nearest 1. Available at http://www.nrscotland.gov.uk/files//statistics/population-estimates/midyear-2014/14mid-year-pe-cahb-publication-correction.pdf.

Locus of charges

As in both 2012-13 and 2013-14, the majority of the charges (46%) occurred at a football stadium. However, the number and proportion of charges at football stadiums decreased from 165 (62%) in 2012-13 and 109 (54%) in 2013-14 to 89 (46%) in 2014-15. A higher proportion (8%) of charges took place in a pub or club in 2014-15 than in 2012-13 (3%) and in 2013-14 (4%).

In 2014-15 there were more charges outside football stadiums (54%) than inside stadiums (46%). This is a change from 2013-14 when there were more charges inside stadiums (54%) than outside (46%).

Table 10: Locus of charges

2012-13

2013-14

2014-15

Locus of offence

Number of charges

%

Number of charges

%

Number of charges

%

Football stadium

165

62

109

54

89

46

Main Street

60

22

70

34

71

37

Public transport

24

9

9

4

10

5

Residential area

8

3

6

3

5

3

Pub or club

8

3

8

4

15

8

Police station

-

-

1

1

0

-

Other

3

1

-

-

3

2

Total

268

100

203

100

193

100

Table 11 shows the number of charges at specific football stadiums. The football stadiums with the highest proportion of charges were Starks Park (13%), Almondvale (13%), New Douglas Park (10%) and Ibrox (9%). In the previous two years Celtic Park, the stadium with the largest capacity in Scotland, had the largest proportion of charges in (24% in 2012-13 and 21% in 2013-14). In 2014-15 this proportion has dropped to less than 5%.

This information relates only to the stadium where the incident took place and does not identify the club affiliations of the victims or the accused, or whether these were 'home' or 'away' supporters.

Table 11: Charges from incidents at football stadiums*

2012-13

2013-14

2014-15

Football stadium

Number of charges

%

Number of charges

%

Number of charges

%

Almondvale

<5

-

<5

-

11

13

Balmoor

6

4

<5

-

<5

-

Broadwood

6

4

<5

-

<5

-

Celtic Park

40

24

23

21

<5

-

Easter Road

<5

-

8

7

5

6

Excelsior

<5

-

12

11

<5

-

Firhill

<5

-

12

11

<5

-

Glebe Park

5

3

<5

-

<5

-

Hampden Park

14

9

<5

--

5

6

Ibrox

33

20

17

16

8

9

McDiarmid Park

6

4

<5

-

<5

-

New Douglas Park

<5

-

<5

-

9

10

Pittodrie

<5

-

<5

-

6

7

Starks Park

<5

-

<5

-

12

13

Tannadice Park

10

6

9

8

<5

-

Tynecastle

10

6

9

8

7

8

Other

24

15

28

26

26

29

Total

165

100

109

100

89

100

* Those football stadiums with charges <5 are included in 'other', therefore are not included in the total rows as well. 'Other' also indicates stadiums not listed in the table (where there were fewer than five charges).

Timing of charges

Chart 1 illustrates the peak days of the week and times of day when the offences took place. Charges peaked every evening during the week but peaked in mid/late afternoon during Saturday and Sunday. As with 2012-13 and 2013-14, the majority of charges occurred on the weekend. This is largely consistent with the times of when the majority of football fixtures take place. The two 'spikes' of charges on the Tuesday and Wednesday can largely be attributed to the he international friendly Scotland v England, Tuesday 18 November 2014 (13 charges), and the Motherwell v Hamilton fixture, Wednesday 24 September 2014 (14 charges).

Chart 1: Time and day of the offence

Chart 1: Time and day of the offence

Football fixtures

Table 12 shows the breakdown of the football fixtures where there were charges made. Within the period of this analysis there were charges connected to 54 fixtures[8], of these 50 were domestic fixtures, 3 were European competitions, and 1 was an international match.

The fixture with the highest number of charges was Dundee United v Aberdeen on the 13th of December 2014, where there was a large incident outside the football stadium. These charges accounted for 16% of the total number of charges for the year and were all related to aggressive behaviour.

The number of police charges issued at any given fixture may not represent the amount of offensive behaviour at or around a match, and may also be a reflection of the decisions the police have made regarding when and where to deploy their officers and their enforcement strategies.

Table 12: Football fixtures associated with charges

Date

Fixture

Number of charges

%

01/02/15

Celtic v Rangers

11

6

13/12/14

Dundee United v Aberdeen

31

16

26/07/14

Dunfermline v Raith Rovers

5

3

24/09/14

Hamilton v Motherwell

14

7

25/05/14

Hibernian v Hamilton

6

3

26/08/14

Kilmarnock v Ayr United

8

4

04/10/14

Livingston v Rangers

10

5

12/09/14

Raith Rovers v Rangers

5

3

20/02/15

Raith Rovers v Rangers

6

3

18/11/14

Scotland v England

13

7

Other*

84

44

Total

193

100

* Other refers to fixtures with fewer than five charges.

Details about the victims

Information about the people targeted by offensive behaviour is not separately recorded in the police reports. For the purpose of this report the researcher made an assessment of who the main victims were, based on the police description of the incident. Victims were identified as the main target for the offensive behaviour. The victim could have been a specific member of the public, the police, a worker (including footballers), or the general 'community' (if, for example, someone was singing an offensive song that was not directed at any specific person but could have been offensive to passers-by, people in the vicinity, or opposing fans). Each charge may have included multiple victim 'types'.

Table 13 shows the different victim groups. In 2014-15, the community was at least one of the victim types in the majority (71%) of charges; this is an increase compared to 2013-14 (58%)and a decrease from 2012-13 (46%).

Table 13: Victims of the offensive behaviour*

2012-13

2013-14

2014-15

Victim

Number of charges

% of total 268 charges

Number of charges

% of total 203 charges

Number of charges

% of total 193 charges

Community

123

46

118

58

137

71

Member of the public

103

38

73

36

50

26

Police

35

13

24

12

21

11

Worker

29

11

14

7

23

12

Unidentified

2

1

0

0

0

0

* The number of charges do not add up to the total number because some charges related to behaviour that targeted more than one victim type.

Details of criminal proceedings

The COPFS publish an annual report on hate crime in Scotland. This provides more details on the outcomes of these charges and can be found at http://www.copfs.gov.uk/publications/equality-and-diversity.

Court proceedings were commenced in 168 (87%) of the 193 charges. The COPFS 'Hate Crime in Scotland in 2014-15' publication also provides details of charges that were concluded outside of court.

Many cases are on-going and information about final convictions will be presented in Scottish Government 'criminal proceedings' publications[9]. The COPFS case management database provides information about convictions for concluded charges. This is provisional information and subject to change as charges are dealt with in the system. It shows that of the 168 charges for which court proceedings had commenced, 42 had concluded and there were 38 convictions (90%) which is a higher proportion of convictions from concluded charges that was reported in the 2013-14 report (65% proportion of convictions). The figures are subject to particular uncertainty this year, due to the lower proportion of charges concluded compared to this time last year (25% compared to 41%).

Charges that conclude quickly may not be representative of all charges. They may have concluded quickly because they were the most straightforward cases or those where there was an early guilty plea. It is therefore possible that final conviction rates will be different from those quoted here.

The main court disposals for convictions for 2012-13, 2013-14 and 2014-15 are shown in Table 14. Although the numbers of charges have reduced since last year for most categories, there was a similar profile of disposals - including mostly monetary penalties (in 23 charges (61% of the total)). There was one custodial sentence, compared with 2 in 2013-14 and 2 in 2012-13.

Table 14: Main court disposals

2012-13

2013-14

2014-15

Disposal

Number of charges

%

Number of charges

%

Number of charges

%

Community penalty

11

18

5

12

5

13

Custody

2

3

2

5

1

3

Football banning order

5

8

7

16

4

11

Monetary penalty

38

61

27

63

23

61

Other

6

10

2

5

5

13

Total

62

100

43

100

38

100

Note: FBOs are given for other offences, therefore this table does not capture all of the FBOs in 2014-15.

Section 6 of the Act: Threatening Communications

The Act also introduced measures to address threats of serious harm and threats that incite hatred on religious grounds, not confined to football settings.

As with section 1, it was not always possible to determine from the COPFS database how the charges had been classified within these two categories. Therefore the classification presented here represents the researcher's understanding of the nature of the offence from the notes available in COPFS.

In 2014-15 there were 5[10] section 6 charges reported to COPFS. In 2013-14 there were 11, and in 2012-13 there were 19.

One of the 5 charges in 2014-15 were football related; compared to 6 in 2013-14 and 8 in 2012-13.

Four of these threatening communications were likely to cause fear and alarm, and included threats of serious harm. One of these threatening communications included reference to a religion (Islam).

There was a specific victim of the offence in 3 of the 5 charges; 2 of these victims were workers and one was a member of the public.

Social media was the method of abuse in all of the 5 charges (including Twitter and SnapChat).

Of the 5 charges, court proceedings have commenced in 4 of the 5 charges. One is on-going and 1 was given a custodial sentence.


Contact

Email: Ben Cavanagh