Football Banning Order spiraling out of control – from drinking in sight of the pitch to a 5 month prison sentence!
The news reports of the football fan who has just received a 5 month prison sentence for breaching his football banning order, makes it an opportune time to remind fans how acceptance of a football banning order, in the belief that it is a civil order, can result in a criminal conviction and prison sentence.
While I don’t have first hand knowledge of this case, and will leave you to draw your own conclusions from the news article below, the circumstances are similar to those that play out in magistrates and crown courts all over England and Wales during every football season. A Football Banning Order can be requested by the police against a fan who they police deem to be causing or likely to cause disorder at football matches. This is a civil order, and many fans will accept the order without challenge due to the fact it is civil and they are under the impression that they cannot challenge it in court. That impression is incorrect, although it is a civil order, the consequences of breaching it are criminal and as such it can be challenged from the first stage.
A civil order can be imposed on a fan by the Magistrates Court for between 3 and 5 years. If the fan breaches that order (and a breach can be as simple as entering a town on a saturday where the fan’s team are playing) then the fan can face a prison sentence. If it is a Home game, this often means that a fan, subject to a football banning order, who takes his or her family into town on a Saturday can be arrested. The breach then becomes a criminal case and this can result in prison.
The fan may consider that the alleged incident in or outside of the football ground which resulted in the football banning order was a minor incident. They may also consider that taking their family into town on a Saturday is a minor incident and as such they will be able to talk their way out of it with the Police or the Magistrates Court. This is a big mistake. The Football Banning Order is a court order and the courts take the breach of one of their orders very seriously. So the simple facts of the case will not excuse the fan, the fact they have breached a court order will mean that they will likely be sentenced to a criminal sanction which can include imprisonment. And hence the minor incident has a life changing effect on the fan, a criminal record, and possibly a period at Her Majesty’s Pleasure!
The key to all of this is not to immediately accept the order, or panic when a summons arrives on the doorstep or is handed over by a police officer. It is best to seek legal advice at the earliest opportunity, and most lawyers specializing in football banning orders will provide their initial advice for free. But even if things have started to spiral out of control, and a criminal conviction for breaching an order is looming, seek advice. Not only the future of attending football matches, but also of work and liberty may depend on whether advice is sought.