No. VI (1974)

Offenders Convicted of Offences Defined as Hooliganism

Published 1974-09-01


  • perpetrator of an offence,
  • offence of a hooligan nature

How to Cite

Szelhaus, S. (1974). Offenders Convicted of Offences Defined as Hooliganism. Archives of Criminology, (VI), 18–50.


  1. This work discusses investigation results concerning 564 individuals convicted of offences defined by the court as hooliganism; the offences were committed in Warsaw, involved the exercise of physical aggression in relation to persons not known to the offender, and took place while the offender was intoxicated.

These studies were initiated in 1963 by the Department of Criminology, Institute of Legal Sciences, Polish Academy of Sciences; police officials throughout Warsaw were ordered by Police Headquarters to complete during the course of 1964 special forms relevant to individuals suspected of having committed one of such offences combined with assault on a member of the public or an official, (usually a policeman).

These questionnaires were filled out only in cases of (a) an offence combined with physical aggression being established; (b) if the person assaulted was previously unknown to the offender; (c) if there was no provocation on the part of the assaulted person; and (d) when as a result of preliminary proceedings the probability of the offender’s being guilty was established.

During the course of one year (1964), there were arrested in the Warsaw area 788 offenders (including 46 women) who had committed offences covered by the criteria referred to above. Investigations embraced 564 male offenders who had committed the most frequently occurring offences classified as hooligan offences:

‒ 226 later convicted by a court for assault causing no bodily harm,

‒ 226 for the assault of policemen,

‒ 112 for causing slight bodily injury.

Data regarding convictions and imprisonment of those investigated, as obtained from official records, were thrice checked: in 1964, after five years; at the end of 1969; and after eight years ‒ at the end of 1972. As regards offenders who in 1964 were under 21 their convictions between 13 and 16 years of age were found out in a Juvenile Court.

The age of 564 of those guilty of hooligan offences in 1964 was as follows:

23% were 17-20 years old,

18% were 21-24 years old,

23% were 25-29 years old,

25% were 30-39 years old

11% were over 40 years old.

The average age of those investigated amounted to approximately 28.5 years and the median – to 26.

After eight years in 1972 the average age of the investigated amounted to approximately 36 and the median was about 34.

            Note that as the offenders grew older there was a gradual increase in the percentage of assaults upon policemen and a decrease in the percentage of those who were convicted for aggressive attacks to the detriment of others.

In 1964, there was a total of 53% with previous convictions, most frequently in the group of young adults (17-20) ‒ 60%, if also taken into account are those cases in which they faced trial before a court while juveniles and least frequently ‒ 40% ‒ in the group of those convicted not earlier than at the age of 40.

Among the recidivists, 40% were convicted once, 29% ‒ twice, 13% ‒ three times, and 18% ‒ four times or more. Already in 1964, when the median of age amounted to no more than 26 years, only 40% of all the offences committed were offences against property, while 50% committed offences with aggression and other offences while intoxicated.

  1. Offences qualified as hooliganism appeared in the light of the random sample, taken from court records, as follows:
  2. Assaults upon policemen: approximately 70% of the offences of this type were committed in connection with police interference caused by disturbance of public order during a brawl, a scuffle, etc., approximately 20% were the reaction to the offender’s being told to behave properly, and the remaining 10% were the reaction when asked by a policeman to reveal identity.
  3. With about 45% of those charged with minor assault on the person or slight bodily injury, it was impossible to perceive any reasons for such aggressive behaviour.

In the case of 26%, aggression was the response to the victim’s having criticised the offender’s improper behaviour in a public place. In the case of 17%, aggression was connected with refusal by the victim to give the offender a small sum of money to buy alcohol.

Note that in cases of slight bodily injuries, only 16% of the offenders used some hard object, and 5% a sharp instrument.

All those charged with such offences classified as hooligan acts were intoxicated at the time they committed the offence; among the victims (of whom 53% were aged up to 30), 22% were also under the influence of alcohol.

  1. The characteristic features, given below, of the offenders referred to were based on all the data obtained about them up to the end of 1972, when the median of age amounted to approximately 34 years; note that this research was combined neither with psychological and medical examinations nor with home interviews of those investigated.

Four groups were differentiated among the 564 individuals charged with acts of hooliganism:

  1. The group marked with the symbol 0/0, which included those convicted only once in 1964, who had faced no trial, either before or afterwards during the course of eight years. This group embraced 30% of the total of offenders.
  2. Group +/0, to which belong those who were charged before 1964, but did not face a court during the follow-up period of eight years. This group included no more than 18% of those investigated.

Note that those investigated from groups A and B are older than those in the remaining two groups. The percentage of those between 17-24 years not convicted after 1964, amounts respectively to 31 and 30, and that of those 30 years old and more ‒ 47 and 37.

  1. Group 0/+ is made up of individuals without convictions before 1964, but who faced charges later. This group contained only 17% of the total of the delinquents.
  2. Group +/+ is composed of individuals convicted before as well as after 1964; this is the most numerous group, embracing 34% of the total of those investigated.

Those from group C and D are considerably younger – below 25 were in 1964 respectively 56% and 47%, while only 25% and 28% were 30 years old and older.

In these two groups of individuals convicted also after 1964 the initiation of convictions took place at a very early stage – convictions below 25 years were: in group C (0/+) – 56%, and in group D (+/+) as much as 90% , taking into account also Juvenile Court convictions under 17 years.

However, in groups A (0/0) and B (+/0) there is a markedly later initiation. In group 0/0 there were only, 32% who were convicted while under 25 and in group +/0 ‒ 39%.

  1. Dealing with those from group A (0/0), where one hooligan act was exceptional, it was found that as regards education and work they were positively distinguished from all the remaining individuals investigated. A considerable majority of them were skilled workers and 23% were white collar workers, students or secondary school pupils. All of them (bar three) were working or studying. According to police records, only 20% of the members of this group frequently consumed alcohol to excess.

The offenders from groups B (+/0) and C (0/+) revealed certain common features, despite the fact that in group B were some who during the course of eight years after 1964 had committed no further offences, while group C embraced some without convictions before 1964, but who faced charges after 1964. A fundamental common feature is the systematic excessive consumption of alcohol by 65% and 60% of those investigated in these groups. Of those from group B (+/0), although they had faced no charges during the eight-year period, only one third were not repeatedly arrested by the police for drunkenness. Among the remainder, 29% were arrested once or twice and entered in police records for drunkenness, 10% were arrested 3-4 times and 26% ‒ five times or more.

The rate of delinquency of those investigated from these two different groups was similar: in group B +/0 ‒ 57% were convicted by court only once, 20% ‒ twice, and only 15% ‒ three  times or more; in group C (0/+) ‒ 56% were convicted only once during the course of eight years after 1964, 35% ‒ twice, and only 9% - three times or more.

The delinquency structure of those investigated from these two groups is almost identical: offences against property do not exceed 20% and 18% respectively of the offences committed by them in general; 54% and 52% were offences combined with physical aggression; and 17%  were offences involving verbal aggression: 6% and 10% of the offences were also connected with excessive consumption of alcohol.

The majority of the delinquents from the most numerous group D (+/+) came from socially seriously depraved categories; one in three of them had not even finished primary school, 43% did not work or only from time to time. Even in 1964, when 47% of them were still under 25, approximately 70% of the total of those investigated in this group figured in police records as “individuals frequently getting drunk and arrested for drunkenness or for causing brawls”. Between 1968 and 1972, as many as 68% of those investigated of this group were brought to detoxication centres and half of them were arrested at least three times (15% even over 10 times).

Those investigated who belonged to group +/+ of recidivists were convicted: 19% ‒ three times, 18% ‒ four times, 18% five times, 18% ‒ six times, 15% ‒ seven to eight times, and 12% ‒ nine times or more.

Among the young adults from this group who in 1964 were 17-20 years old, as many as 90% had already faced charges while they still were juveniles.

Examination of the structure of delinquency of the total number of those investigated from group +/+ showed that 36% committed theft, 42% committed offences combined with physical aggression, 17% with verbal aggression, and 5%  committed still other offences, also connected with drunkenness.

Two sub-groups differentiated from among those investigated in group +/+:

(1) The first included 57% of such recidivists who were convicted exclusively (24%) or mainly (33%) of offences combined with aggression, or other offences committed as a rule while intoxicated.

(2) The second sub-group included 36% of the recidivists convicted mainly (26%) or exclusively (9%) of theft. Theft accounted for three fourths of the total of the offences, and approximatery 20% of the offences were combined with aggression.

  1. The following answers were obtained to the question as to how many out of the population of delinquents investigated who committed hooligan acts were convicted at least four times for physical aggression:

There was a total of 42 such delinquents, 32 were convicted four times for such offences and only 10 were convicted at least five times.

Though these 42 offenders convicted at least four times for physical aggression account for almost 23% of all the recidivists, convicted four times and more, however, they make only 8% of the total of the investigated committed hooligan acts.

 Ail these recidivists are recruited from among recidivists of group +/+ of the socially most depraved, and as a rule they were convicted also of having committed other offences (54% for theft).

  1. Examining other data, also mentioned in this work, related to “offences combined with physical aggression” it should be borne in mind that among all the offences with aggression against the person (564), committed by those investigated, 58% were responsible for battery and 26% for slight bodily injury.

As regards serious crimes with violence against the person there were: 3 murders, 27 very serious and serious bodily injuries, 28 brawls and 3 rapes.

Together, all such serious crimes make only 10,8% of all the offences against the person.

Robbery also is rated a serious crime and there were 68 of such (as many as 55 robberies were committed by recidivists from group +/+ with multiple convictions). If offences involving serious violence against the person are added to robberies, then all the serious (dangerous) crimes accounted for 6.4% of the total of offences.




Summing up the results of the investigations, it may be concluded that among Warsaw residents studied as responsible for hooligan acts, 30% were convicted only once for such offences in 1964, 35% were as a rule convicted not more frequently than 2-3 times, and 34% were recidivists marked by strong social degradation, as a rule with multiple convictions.

Among the crimes committed by all those investigated ‒ with the exception of 35% of the subgroup of recidivists from group +/+ ‒ there is a substantial predominance of offences combined with physical or verbal aggression and other offences resulting from insobriety.

Out of the entire 564 individuals investigated as having committed hooligan acts, only 12% were recidivists as regards whom could be noted a marked predominance of offences against property as compared with other offences.

Thus the category, discussed in this work, of offenders who committed hooligan acts, is marked by specific features, closely connected with excessive drinking.


  1. Batawia S., Młodociani i młodzi recydywiści w świetle badań kryminologicznych, „Archiwum Kryminologii” 1965, t. III, s. 9-95,
  2. Szelhaus S., Analiza przestępczości wielokrotnych recydywistów, „Archiwum Kryminologii” 1969, t. IV, s. 11-58,
  3. Szelhaus S., Młodociani recydywiści (społeczne czynniki procesu wykolejania), PWN, Warszawa 1969.
  4. Szelhaus S., Wyniki badań recydywistów alkoholików o początku przestępczości po ukończeniu 25 lat, „Archiwum Kryminologii” 1972, t. V, s. 228-268,