Charges reported under the Offensive Behaviour at Football and Threatening Communications Act 2016-2017

An analysis of charges reported under the Act to provide information about the nature of the charges, the accused and the victims of incidents.

2. Methods

For this research, analysts from the Scottish Government undertook a review of cases files from the COPFS case management database. This database contains the information that is submitted to the COPFS by the police after the accused are charged, including a description of the incident, information about the progression of the charge through the criminal justice system, the decisions that were made on whether or not to prosecute, the court's verdict, and any penalties issued by the court after a conviction. Since this is a live database, information can be updated and changed during the life of the case. For instance, if the Procurator Fiscal amends a charge, the database only holds details of the amended charge.

The COPFS case management database is not designed for routine analysis but an extracted dataset has been used as the source for this research project to explore charges made under the Act. [4]

There are a number of points that should be kept in mind when reading this report:

  • First, this analysis is based on data that was reported to the COPFS by the police and is therefore limited by what was included in their reports. Any analysis of, for example, the nature of the offensive behaviour and/or the links to drugs and alcohol depend on the extent to which this information is provided in the reports. This information may not have always been recorded by the police, for example where it was not viewed as directly relevant to the charge.
  • Second, this report does not present information about the real or actual personal, social, or cultural backgrounds of victims that may have been the focus of an attack. For example, no information is included about the religious affiliation, ethnic origin, or sexual orientation of victims. This is because the characteristics of the victim are not relevant to an assessment of whether a crime was committed and therefore are not required to be recorded in police prosecution reports.
  • Third, this analysis does not provide a straightforward measure of changes in behaviour at and around football matches, and the trends and findings noted in this report are within the context of the policing of this behaviour. Not all offensive behaviour at football comes to the attention of the police, or occurs in circumstances where the police are able to charge people for an offence. The information that is reported by the police to the COPFS is influenced by the decisions the police have made about when and where to deploy their officers, and wider strategies for the policing of football.
  • Fourth, we have now gathered data over a sufficient number of years to be able to see that the changes and trends from year to year are often driven by a small number of specific events, and we need to be extremely cautious about drawing conclusions from comparing data across different years. This is particularly pertinent this year because of the high number of charges associated with the Scottish Cup Final at Hampden stadium on 21 st May 2016.
  • Finally, the analysis of charges included cases which are still underway and the findings may therefore be incomplete on some of the questions.


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