Lions TV..Roy Larner Appreciation Night

There has been a lot of discussion on social media the past few days about the Roy Larner Appreciation Night held on 29th July 2017 and organised by Dan from Lions TV. I can confirm that some of the proceeds of that evening, have been paid to someone to be passed on to Roy. Although I have seen a message on social media stating that Roy will be paid £2700, I can’t comment any further on that at the moment as neither Roy or myself have been told this personally, and so far the amount paid is less than £2700.

I can understand that those who attended the evening and also friends of Roy who did not attend the event are concerned that Roy has not yet received the full proceeds or a breakdown of how the £2700 is calculated. I too am concerned, and rest assured I am looking into this and will do my very best to ensure that Roy receives what is rightfully his. 

At the moment I would like to hear from anyone who bought tickets for the event, in particular I would like to know what they thought Roy would receive from the evening, and why they bought a ticket. I would also like to hear from anyone who was successful in their auction bids, what they bid for, how much they paid and whether they paid out that evening. Finally anyone who purchased a signed photograph. 

I can be contacted at gurdena@btinternet.com or on 07941 212357, or alternatively via direct message on Twitter @gurdena
Alison Gurden, Barrister for Roy Larner. 

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Imprisoned for Public Protection (IPP) is just life with parole for many prisoners, but knee jerk reactions to a few press reports is not the solution. 

An IPP prisoner is one who the court  decided needed to be imprisoned for public protection. Basically a person was given a set prison sentence, for example 3 years, but then on top of that the judge designated them as a danger to the public and that means they can’t be released until it has been decided by the parole board that the prisoner is no longer a risk of harm if released. 

The IPP scheme was abolished in 2012, and replaced with a scheme where a prisoner is now given a set sentence, say 3 years, and then (for certain offences) if the judge considers them dangerous, an extended sentence can be imposed, such as another 3 years.  Hence, extended term prisoners now have a release date.

Recent press reports about a young man with mental health issues who was given a sentence of less than a year but designated an IPP, and has served many additional years has resulted in mud slinging between the Parole Board, Ministry of Justice, Prisons and prisoners’ families.  Whereas on social media, suddenly prison experts seem to have come out of the woodwork..

The reality is that some of the IPP prisoners still incarcerated would be able to walk away from prison if released and live a normal life. Most wouldn’t, the years of incarceration and lack of support from within the prison system means that some who were not really dangerous when they were imprisoned may well have been made dangerous by the state.  Many of the current courses offered in prison are run by private companies for profit, they don’t actually benefit the prisoner, there aren’t enough places on the courses, and they often are cancelled or replaced by another bright idea course part way through, 

Many IPP prisoners downgraded to open conditions of released on licence are recalled due to minor breaches of their licence as the test for recall is not whether a person is becoming a risk of harm to the public, but rather whether they breach their licence conditions, such as by going to the pub for a pint, getting back late to the hostel. The recall system is part of the IPP problem. 

I am a lawyer working in prison law and representing IPP prisoners. Almost all of those I have represented have been released, those who haven’t been released have (with the exception of 2) been downgraded in category.  The 2 who have not been downgraded are preparing for a further hearing to determine whether they can be released.  

I’d like to say my clients have been released due to me having fantastic advocacy skills, but that’s simply not true. The secret to release for an IPP prisoner is preparation for the parole hearing. Not just taking the courses etc which the Ministry of Justice seems to think will all of a sudden make someone no longer dangerous.  A full package of information on the prisoner, an independent psychiatric report, evidence from family and friends about how they will support the prisoner on release, evidence the prisoner has thought realistically about their future such as the type of work they are going to be able to undertake and where they will live. These have to be realistic, for example, it is pointless for a sex offender to suggest they are going to set up their own tattoo business – no parole board is going to release a prisoner sentenced for serious sex offences, so that they can spend their days touching the skin of semi clad women. 

The parole board will provide a package for the prisoner prior to their hearing, but it’s very one sided, reports from the prison, reports from probation (often from a probation office who doesn’t know the prisoner and has spent no more than an hour interviewing them over a video link). For some reason the parole board members often seem to take more notice of the views of this probation officer who doesn’t know the prisoner, than a prison officer who has observed them on a daily basis. 

In the USA I work with youths who were given life without parole but who now have a chance of a rehearing. I also prepare for clemency hearings for death row prisoners, the last ditch attempt to persuade a State Governor not to execute a prisoner.  For both of these types of case I work with a mitigation expert who is appointed for the prisoner. We prepare a package of information which is not state biased and which gives another angle or perspective to the prisoners life.  

Just as in my criminal defence work when I question why anyone suspected or charged with an offence would rely on the police to investigate their defence, I question why any prisoner will just rely on the reports prepared by the prison & probation (both Government underfunded and controlled by targets which the prisoner knows nothing about).  

A few weeks ago I read an email from a lawyer to a young defendant’s mother in which the lawyer told the mother that probation had prepared a pre sentence report, they felt there was no need for an expert report so the lawyer wasn’t going to ask for one. The probation officer had spent 30 minutes on a video link with the defendant to prepare the presentence report, had not identified the youth’s mental health issues or learning difficulties. The youth was given an extended sentence on the say so of a private company employed probation officer who had no experience of dealing with youth defendants, and had only been a probation officer for less than a year, and on their own admission was told by their bosses they could spend no more than an hour on each pre sentence report they prepared. 
As lawyers we can do more to assist our IPP clients. As always, funding is an issue for many lawyers acting for prisoners, only a few law firms now have a prison law contract as the LAA actively encouraged firms not to apply for a prison law contract. Just travel costs alone to visit a prisoner can be extremely expensive, most IPP prisoners are housed in prisons in the middle of nowhere with no public transport links. A return train to the closest station and taxi from the station can often amount to more than £100 from London so it is very difficult to take on IPP cases pro bono. However in all of my cases I have found a solution, a solicitor who has hounded the LAA until they agree to fund an expert report, a family which manages to fund my travel to prison, a PhD candidate who is funded by their university and is prepared to assist with assessing my client, a charity which has gained access to a prison to offer a particular course. 

Just arguing the IPP prisoners should be released is not the answer, each prisoner is different, and each case should be taken on its merits. I question whether the Parole Board should be left with responsibility for trying to resolve the mess the Ministry of Justice has created by its dithering.  If the parole board focuses on IPP prisoners, this will create a backlog of other prisoners awaiting a parole board hearing. The current backlogs of over 2 years in many cases is already unacceptable. Although it should be said, a lot of the backlog is not only due to the parole board, but often due to the prison or probation not providing reports on time or not turning up to hearings. 

A solution would be to have a panel of High Court judges with criminal law experience, conducting a release hearing. The judge could sit with a parole board member and hear evidence much like in a parole hearing, but unlike a parole board, they could have power to replace the IPP with an extended term (if release was not deemed appropriate).  All IPP prisoners should get the equivalent of a pre trial review court hearing automatically, this hearing in front of the judge could be used to set a timetable for reports and other evidence, list the evidence etc which the judge requires, and set a date for the full hearing. Judges should have the authority to approve funding for lawyers and experts. In essence a court appointed lawyer & court appointed expert.  

We could learn a lot from the USA. Within months of the Supreme Court ruling that Life Without Parole for youths was unconstitutional, the first cases were back in court, unlike the Ministry of Justice dithering while dishing out sound bites, which does nothing more than show that it is out of its depth in dealing with this issue. 

Think the suggestion of ID cards for away fans is just a Millwall FC issue.. think again! 

I’m aware of an article on the Sun Online about Millwall FC fans being required to have the equivalent of Away Fan ID cards. The EFL have used the pitch invasion of some fans at the end of the play off at Wembley as a reason for requiring the fans to provide ID to purchase away tickets but in truth this is just an excuse and a slippery slope for all football fans who travel away.

In the 1980s and early 1990s the Government wanted to introduce ID cards for football fans and even drew up legislation which was debated in Parliament. The ID card scheme was never approved, partly because the question of how to allow alcohol to be served in corporate boxes while preventing fans in the stands from drinking alcohol then took priority and used up all the time set aside for the ID card discussions.  But, don’t for one minute think that the ID card idea has gone away.

A few years ago at the Brighton V Crystal Palace match, in which Crystal Palace secured a place in the Premier League, the Met Police sent out a message that everyone travelling to Brighton would be stop checked and would have to provide ID to show they were the fan named on their ticket. This plan fell apart as Crystal Palace didn’t print the fans names on the tickets, and Sussex Police refused to get involved in the scheme. But this is just one example of the fact ID for away fans has been bubbling under the surface for years.

If the EFL are successful in forcing Millwall FC to introduce away fan ID, this will be the start of the slippery slope. The next club which has a pitch invasion or some kind of fan issue will find itself in the same position as Millwall FC but then there will be the added justification ‘well it’s already been introduced at Millwall FC so why should you be treated differently’.

My phone has been red hot all morning with football fans moaning about the possibility of ID cards. I’ve got your back, I don’t agree with it, but on my own I can’t do anything about it. Grass roots campaigns can be hugely effective, and if the ID card idea is to be stopped it will need a well organised grassroots campaign from all fans who travel to away games, not just Millwall FC fans.  This affects any fan who travels to away games as it is campaigning against future restrictions which, if you don’t try and stop it now, will happen.

Bitching on social media, setting off smoke bombs outside the EFL offices and blaming the football clubs will not work.  Football fans have such a varied background (project managers, company directors, accountants, lawyers, journalists, lobbyists, campaigners, research students.. etc etc) this could be a grassroots campaign like no other but it requires football fans putting in the work. I’m happy to assist and coordinate, but I can’t do this without your help. 

Either stand up to the EFL now or get ready to hand over an ID card every time you travel away within the next 5 years. 

Message on Behalf of Roy Larner – the ‘Hero of London Bridge’

On 3rd June 2017 Mr Roy Larner was a victim of the attack at London Bridge. He has been hailed a hero for his actions on that evening, but it should not be forgotten that he is also a victim who was quite seriously injured due to direct contact with an attacker. For the past five weeks Roy Larner has been involved in what can only be described as a media circus, as understandably the public wanted to hear his story of what happened on that evening.

Now that his account of that evening has been aired, it is time for Roy to take some time out and concentrate on his physical and mental health, as should everyone directly involved in an attack of such a horrific nature.

I ask that Roy is left to focus his attentions on making sure he is able to recover from the incident, and that he is not approached by any press, promotions or organisations with offers of interviews or assistance. All such approaches should be made through myself for the foreseeable future.

I also ask that members of the public respect his privacy, while he is very much a recognisable person due to the media attention, it should be remembered that he is a man who has suffered a very traumatic experience.

Any queries in relation to Roy Larner should be made to me on 07041 212357 or via email gurdena@btinternet.com.

Alison Gurden

Barrister

Mansfield 1 Gray’s Inn Square Chambers 0207 405 0001

ADVICE FOR CELTIC FC FANS WHO HAVE BEEN SUSPENDED BY THE CLUB

 

This is a quick advice which is only in relation to the Celtic FC away matches as I need to obtain further documentation in relation to the suspension of season tickets at Celtic Park.

I am aware that a letter has been sent out to some season ticket holders informing them that their season tickets are under suspension and that they are also banned from attending away matches.. the exact wording is “..pending further investigation you are hereby suspended from attending (1) any Celtic FC or other matches at Celtic Park; (2)any matches involving Celtic FC at any other stadium in Scotland or elsewhere.” There is also mention of a refund for any fans who have purchased a ticket for the match against Rosenborg at Celtic Park.

There is a Celtic FC away match scheduled for 29th July at Sunderland AFC.  A football club cannot ban people from entering any stadium other than its own. Hence, while Celtic FC can ban any person from entering Celtic Park, it cannot ban someone from entering Sunderland’s Stadium of Light. However, if Sunderland AFC wishes to ban Celtic FC fans from entering the Stadium of Light (even if only on advice or recommendation of Celtic FC) it can do so. If Celtic FC fans have purchased their Stadium of Light tickets using their membership, it is possible that Celtic FC have provided these details to Sunderland AFC, and those Celtic FC fans who have been suspended may find they are refused access to the Stadium of Light due to this information. However, neither Celtic FC or Sunderland AFC have made any suggestion that there is a refund system in place for any Stadium of Light tickets and that indicates (although don’t take this as gospel) that the Stadium of Light will not refuse entry to those Celtic FC fans who have purchased tickets and who Celtic FC have suspended. If they do refuse entry due to the request of Celtic FC, a claim can be made against Celtic for the costs of the tickets as no offer has been made for refund or compensation for not being able to attend. In addition, if Celtic FC has provided the details of all the suspended fans to Sunderland FC, that in itself may amount to a data protection breach.

In Short, at the moment it seems as though Celtic FC fans travelling to Sunderland AFC are likely to be granted entry to the Stadium of Light. Obviously those who have not purchased through a membership scheme cannot be traced on their tickets by either Celtic FC or Sunderland AFC. However, keep an eye on Sunderland AFC website incase there are any announcements from Sunderland FC to the travelling Celtic FC fans.

Celtic FC has made a veiled threat in its letter that anyone who tries to evade the suspension will have their season ticket revoked. It is possible for Celtic FC to do this as the club has the ultimate right to deny access to the stadium to anyone as it is a private venue. However, if there is a mass of fans who have their season ticket revoked it is possible to make a complaint to the Football Ombudsman, and in addition anyone who has their season ticket revoked will be able to claim for the cost of the season ticket and also likely be able to claim a small amount of compensation for the aggravation of having the season ticket revoked. But the bottom line is that Celtic FC can ban whoever they want from Celtic Park, no matter how unreasonable.

‘She deserved it…’ ‘He embarrassed me so I decided to do the same to him”… Dealing with online harassment without Police involvement.

Many of us (including me) have been there….posted something on social media in anger, when feeling sad or depressed, or drunk or high.  There is then that ‘Oh Sh*t’ moment when you realise, delete the post or photo and hope that not too many people saw it. Some of these ‘Oh Sh*t’ moments may involve comments about or photos of others and will then involve a grovelling apology to anyone you have embarrassed or upset.

There is however, a growing trend of people posting things on social media, blogs, and forums with the intention of causing another person to feel anxiety or distress, or embarrassment, or alternatively knowing that it will.  The girlfriend/boyfriend who becomes an ex,  and posts what are referred to as ‘dick pics’.  The person who feels aggrieved at the actions of another and posts copies of their private messages in such a way that they could be identified by others.  The person who sends emails or posts online messages to  another’s employer in the hope it will cause them problems at work or even cause them to lose their job.  Or in some cases, someone who becomes fixated on another, who they have never met, but who they research on social media, putting together the pieces until they have identified friends and family, who they then use to get at the person whom they have become fixated.  These are all actions which will be classed as harassment.   In most cases a person knows who it is who is harassing them, or is able to work it out from the content of the harassment.

The law on harassment is clear, there is no defence of “s/he deserved it” or “I wanted to tell them how I feel and they blocked me on their phone so i had to do it this way” or  “well, you can’t identify who I’m talking about just from that post”.  If a person (on more than 1 occasion) intentionally posts things online which on their own, or with other posts could identify another, or sends messages to another’s employer or home, and that causes the other anxiety, or alternatively an ordinary person would say that it is likely to cause anxiety or distress, then it is harassment.

While the Police can deal with harassment complaints, it is often difficult for them to do so quickly.   The police have to investigate and in many cases will have to make contact with another police force as the harasser often lives or works in another area, meanwhile the harasser will often ramp up their harassment, particularly if they do not get a reaction from the person they are harassing.

Another way of dealing with the harassment is by sending a warning letter to the harasser (I have sent out 3 this week alone) warning them that their actions are harassing, and that if they do not stop, then a civil claim can be brought against them.  The benefit of a civil claim is that the police do not need to be involved, the burden of proof is much lower.  Whereas in criminal courts the magistrates or jury have to be satisfied so that they are sure that a person has carried out the action and that an ordinary person would deem it to be harassment, in civil cases, it is merely a question of is it more likely than not that the actions would have caused harassment? This is much easier to prove.  In many cases, just providing screenshots of the social media posts is enough evidence to prove a civil case.

In civil cases a restraining order can be applied for.  This will be aimed at preventing the harasser posting anything else online which could cause the person they were harassing any anxiety or distress, or making any contact with the person they were harassing.  A breach of a restraining order can result in a prison sentence.

In my experience, the warning letter is often enough, but if it doesn’t do the trick, it is very easy to bring a claim in the civil courts as the abused person is in control of the court action, they do not have to rely on the intervention of the police or Crown Prosecution Service.   So although for many people, their first thought is to ring the police, with police resources stretched to breaking point around the country, a much better chance of getting the harassment stopped may be taking things into your own hands and using the civil route.

 

 

Seen your photo in the press with a ‘wanted hooligan’ type headline? Here’s what to do about it. 

The recent publication of football fan photos, by the Metropolitan Police, highlights again the media spin which is placed on alleged ‘football hooligans’. When police publish a photo of someone wanted in connection with a rape or serious assault, the photo usually appears inside the newspaper, however today a few newspapers chose to put the photos of fans they want to speak to following the Millwall v Leicester match on their front pages.
What does it mean when the police release your photo to the media?

The police have identified from cctv footage or social media footage, people who were at the match and who the police believe were involved in disorder. This does not mean that a person has to make contact with the police if their photograph is published, However it is likely that if the police identify them (often through someone else contacting the phone number on the press release and providing a name), the police will turn up at the fans home address early one morning and arrest them. 

Once arrested and taken to the police station, the fan is entitled to a lawyer being present in interview. This is free of charge, and there is a misconception amongst many people arrested, that the lawyer is a police lawyer. That’s not true, the lawyer works for the defence. 

The other misconception is that if an arrested person doesn’t have a lawyer they will get out of the police station quicker. This is a comment that arrested people often tell me the police told them. That is rubbish! A standard stay in a police station after arrest is 6-10 hours, lawyer or no lawyer. But in my experience, those who don’t have a lawyer come out with stringent bail conditions, and are more likely to be charged with an offence. 

The alternative to an early morning knock at home by the police, is for a fan to identify themselves to the police as being in the photographs. It is still likely that the fan will be interviewed, but it can often be arranged as a voluntary interview at a time and date convenient to the fan. The fan is still entitled to have a lawyer present during interview. A voluntary interview also means that (unless the fan is then charged with an offence) they don’t have to give their fingerprints and DNA at the police station. 

If a fan self identifies, this can be done via their lawyer, so that arrangements can be made for the lawyer to attend the police station with the fan. 
What about the publication of the photos?

Once the person in the photo has been identified, there is no need for the police and media to keep the photo displayed on their websites. I am often contacted by fans who are concerned that months after they have been identified their image is still out there on the internet. While it’s not possible to guarantee that the photo is removed from the Internet completely, it is possible to ask that the websites containing the photo are updated to blur out the image. I regularly make contact with the police and press to ensure that the photo is removed. 

Anyone who is concerned about their image being in the press can contact me 07941 212357 or Melanie Cooke, Football Law Associates 07834 483092 for advice and assistance.