For this research, an analyst from the Scottish Government undertook a review of case files from the COPFS case management database. This database contains the information that is submitted to 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 charges.
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.
There are a number of points that should be kept in mind when reading this report. First, this analysis does not provide a comprehensive picture of the prevalence of offensive behaviour at football in Scotland. This is because not all incidents of offensive behaviour at football come to the attention of the police, or in circumstances where the police are able to charge people for an offence. The information that is reported by the police to COPFS is influenced by the decisions the police have made about when and where to deploy their officers and the wider policing of football. The number of charges may increase in certain circumstances, such as where extra emphasis may have been given to the detection and reporting of offensive behaviour at football.
Second, this analysis is based on data that was reported to 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 where it was not viewed as directly relevant to the charge.
Third, 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. The report does not include information, for example, 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.
Finally, the analysis of charges included cases which are still underway and the findings may therefore be incomplete on some of the questions.