An evaluation of Section 1 of the Offensive Behaviour at Football and Threatening Communications (Scotland) Act 2012 - Research Findings

An Evaluation of the implementation and impact of section 1 of the Offensive Behaviour and Threatening Communications (Scotland) Act 2012

Levels of offending at and around football matches and theimpact of the act

In its assessment of the Act, this evaluation has considered both the specific details of the legislation, i.e. the new s.1 offences, and the decisions that were made about implementation. Because these initiatives are so closely interrelated, judgements about the impact of the details of the legislation are impossible to disentangle from judgements about how s.1 is implemented.

It was acknowledged by fans and stakeholders alike that the Act was introduced in a way that gave it a high profile and saw it rapidly utilised. Whilst this generated hostility amongst some fans, it was also acknowledged by some fans and stakeholders that this had an immediate impact on behaviour.

Again, the fan survey questions asking fans to judge changes in prevalence of certain behaviours in relation to 'previous seasons' provided some tentative support for the impact of the Act on those behaviours that would clearly have been defined as criminal under s. 1. For example, 40% of supporters felt negative references to religious background were less common in the 2013/14 season than in previous seasons, while only 3% felt it was more common.

Over half (56%) of supporters felt that the level of negative references to religious background was about the same as in previous seasons.

Official data on football-related offending would seem to lend support to the perceived decrease in certain behaviours, indicating a marked decline in football-related charges, including a 24% reduction in s.1 charges in 2013-14, from 2012-13.

However, after a long period where football-related violence was perceived to be in decline, a number of football intelligence officers and senior police officers confirmed that there had been a notable upsurge in football-related violence by certain 'risk groups.' This activity was usually located well-away from actual football stadia.

In sum, although there may have been a reduction in the occurrence of some problematic behaviours at footbal in the last few years, it is impossible to determine whether some, or any of these reductions are attributable directly to the Act. Although some fans and police officers clearly felt that the Act had had an impact, other factors which may have contributed include the policing or prosecutorial resources which were put in place the year before the Act and the wider societal context which has witnessed sustained declines in violence and disorder more generally over a number of years.


Email: Ben Cavanagh

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