Rise in charges under Offensive Behaviour at Football Act

The number of charges reported under the controversial Offensive Behaviour at Football Act have risen by nearly 50 per cent in a year, new figures show.

Fans clashed during the Scottish Cup final between Hibs and Rangers. Picture: Neil Hanna

Figures from the Scottish Government show there were 287 charges reported to prosecutors in 2015/16 - up 49 per cent on the previous year.

Of the 214 cases where court proceedings were commenced, 86 have concluded and there have been 73 convictions (85 per cent).

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The accused were affiliated with 33 different teams, but Rangers fans made up 25 per of the charges (down from 30 per cent last year).

Celtic fans accounted for nine per cent, as did supporters of Kilmarnock and Hearts.

Justice secretary Michael Matheson said: “The recent appalling scenes at the Scottish Cup final demonstrated that the unacceptable behaviour of a minority of football fans continues to be a problem.

“An increase in the number of charges under the Offensive Behaviour Act shows that the legislation continues to be an important tool in tackling all forms of offensive behaviour, including sectarianism, and sends a clear message that such behaviour has no place in a modern, open and inclusive society. I have asked Scottish football to take further steps to address this long-standing issue and I expect to see progress on this imminently.”

Chief Superintendent Barry McEwan, of Police Scotland, said: “Tackling hate crime is a priority for Police Scotland and we are committed to rooting out crimes motivated by prejudice. Last year we ran a highly successful anti hate crime campaign which reached many people and our commitment to eradicating hate crime continues. Police Scotland, with Crown Office, hosted a joint Hate Crime Conference at Hampden Park in March 2016 at which the First Minister provided a keynote address alongside the Lord Advocate and the Chief Constable, showing our collective commitment to tackling hate crime in all its forms.”