Archive | April 2014

Hand held smoke bombs…getting a lot more than you paid for!

This is an updated version of the blog piece I wrote last week, so if you read it last week and found it thoroughly enjoyable feel free to read it again! For the other 99.99% of readers who have no intention of reading it again, please take time to read the following two paragraphs.

Due to my work representing football fans I have let off a lot of smoke bombs and flares in my time, I try to get hold of the same version that my client released so that I can describe to the magistrates exactly what happens when it is let off. My usual comment on smoke bombs is ‘ you crack the seal and smoke comes out, it doesn’t get hot, there is no flame and it doesn’t have to be lit by a match or lighter’. As the sentencing guidance for having possession of a smoke bomb or flare is the same (3 months in prison, which the Home Office has encouraged courts to order in full), I try to show the court the difference between a smoke bomb, and a flare. There is no doubt that most people consider that a flare that can burn at over 1000 degrees and has an open flame is more dangerous in a crowd environment than a smoke bomb.

Last week I came across a hand held smoke bomb, purchased on the internet, which is a long tube rather than a tin. It is the same as a smoke bomb in the amount of smoke that it gives off, but after the smoke finished it burned like a flare for over 30 seconds. There was nothing on the packaging warning about the the flame. My instant concern was that it is the type of thing a fan would set off and kick or roll down the stand – as is common practice with smoke bombs to create the atmosphere around the stand. If this hand held smoke bomb is kicked down the stands it will end up as a flame at someone’s seat or feet. These handhelds are cheaper than the tin variety of smoke bombs and so probably seem more attractive to fans, and I am sure that as they are a tube they are easier to hide under clothing, but please think about the consequences. Most fans I represent who are charged with possession of a smoke bomb are not risk fans, not known to the police, they are out for a bit of fun. Trust me, then end result of setting one of these off is highly unlikely to be fun

Over zealous celebrating at the match this weekend may make you an armchair spectator for the next 3 years.

I’m sure many fans read my blogs and think I’m either patronising fans or doing the police’s job, but in reality I’m neither…I’m the one who travels up and down the country representing fans who are facing criminal charges and football banning orders. Don’t get me wrong… I love my job, but I often wish I didn’t have to do it, especially when I am representing fans who have acted in a moment of madness, due to excitement or jubilation at a result and who are facing the next three years without being able to watch their team play live.

I’m picking on Wolves fans this week as they are part of my pyro amnesty bin trial at Sixfields Stadium. Next week I’ll be picking on Oxford United and Northampton Town fans.

Seeing this article earlier made me think about the consequences that a 1 minute jog onto the pitch, or the cracking open of a smoke bomb, or lighting of a flare can have to the next three to five years. Because that’s the length of a football banning order. In addition the Home Office message to courts is to order the strictest sentence they can for possession of pyro in the stadium….that’s three months inside a prison cell. http://www.expressandstar.com/news/2014/04/25/wolves-vow-to-find-and-ban-pitch-invaders/

Don’t for one minute think that the offence has to be a serious one for a fan to get a ban. Simple disorder such as a bit of pushing and shoving, pitch invasion or even being drunk in a stadium, all attract football banning orders. The minimum length of ban a court can impose is three years. On top of that many clubs are now issuing even longer club bans on fans who are not convicted of any offence.

So unless you want to watch your team only from the comfort of your living room for the next three years, oh and you also want to have to hand your passport in at the police station every time England or your team play an overseas match, please don’t take pyro into the stadium or invade the pitch while the game is in play this weekend.

As part of the pyro amnesty bin trial running at Sixfields in conjunction with Northants Police, there will be pyro amnesty bins outside both the Home and Away entrances. They are not monitored by CCTV or the police and the contents will not be fingerprinted or any other methods used to identify who put the item in the bin. http://wp.me/p2vym0-7G

If you find yourselves at Sixfields with pyro ( or anything else which you know is illegal or banned in a stadium) please use the bins. That way you will get to see your team lift the trophy next week, and attend the Championship games next season. If you don’t use the bins and get caught in the ground with pyro or banned items, the only thing you are likely to see is a prison cell in the short term and the match in widescreen for the next three years!

So..if you’ve anything dodgy, do yourself a favour and dump it. And then hopefully I will never be writing your name on my court papers.

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‘The “Y” Word’ Campaign is misguided and wrong – the Kick it Out debate that was not really a debate.

Last night in Manchester, I attended the Kick It Out debate on ‘The ”Y” Word’ which was less of a debate and more of a discussion by the panel. I came away feeling disappointed that there had not been a full debate and that the audience participation had been kept to a minimum. I think the main problem was that although this had been advertised as a debate on ‘The “Y” Word’ it actually wasn’t really intended to be, it was just as much a promotion of the exhibition Four Four Jew. That is probably where my disappointment lies, I feel I was misled.

Ivan Cohen and David Conn both spoke very passionately about the fact that this should not be a debate on ‘The “Y” Word’ and this is not the issue. The issue is anti-semitism, and it is anti-semitism which should be tackled. I couldn’t agree more. It seems to me that ‘The “Y”Word’ is a phrase coined by David and Ivor Baddiel to promote their video, and from this a campaign has been created. Sadly that campaign is as misguided, as their video is legally incorrect. But I doubt that the Baddiel brothers are really bothered by the fact that they may have been the cause of three men being arrested and charged with a racially aggravated public order offence and all the associated bad publicity that they received, after all when you are in TV and media, no publicity is bad publicity. It was mooted that the Baddiel’s will be producing a second version of the video, let us hope more innocent people don’t end up in the police station with their fingerprints and DNA being held on file forever due to another misguided and inaccurate campaign.

I would estimate that at least two thirds of last night’s audience were jewish or of jewish descent, and no-one spoke up in agreement with the view of Anthony Clavane that the use of the word “Yid’ caused them offence or was a problem. It seemed he was in a minority, and sadly he seemed to be of the opinion that if he felt offended by the use of a word then it should no longer be used. Unfortunately I wasn’t able to enter the debate as there was not enough time, however, had I been able to, I would have commented that I find it offensive if people refer to me as Fat, but that doesn’t mean I want the word banned, freedom of speech is far too important for that. I am not a historian, but I am aware that over history Jewish people have referred to themselves as Yids.

Anthony Clavane also made the point that I have heard David Baddiel make previously, that it is the fact that Spurs fans call themselves ‘Yid Army” that causes anti-semitism in opposing fans. Ivan Cohen equated that argument to saying that women in short skirts are asking to be raped. I totally agree with Ivan on this point, otherwise we could blame black people for being black as that causes others to abuse them. It’s a nonsense, and quite frankly if that is the best argument that can be raised about the use of “Yid” it shows that their campaign is wrong.

Sadly Alex Golberg was not able to add much to the ‘debate’. Although he was clearly wearing an FA hat, he did not elaborate on why the FA suddenly felt the need to issue the statement in Autumn 2013 which started the slippery slope to these Spurs fans being arrested and other fans being issued with warning notices (which will be held on police intelligence logs). He did promote the fact that the FA had taken a stance in the Anelka case, but unfortunately he wasn’t fully briefed on the outcome and had to be corrected by David Conn and a member of the audience, which was a shame as it would have been good to hear the FA views on this. Likewise it would have been good to hear the FA stance on the use of Yid by both Spurs fans and opposing fans, since the CPS decided to discontinue the case on the basis that there was no offence. Anthony Clavane less than eloquently put it that the Spurs fans had been ‘Let Off’, perhaps he can put that in his next book which I am sure he will shamelessly plug as much as he plugged his latest book last night!

I didn’t attend the debate to hear from those members of the panel who are in the media eye and have ample opportunity to put their views across, I attended to hear from the public, from the Jewish community, from football fans. There were only 8 questions allowed from the floor in the two and a half hour session, and infact when a member of the audience asked that the “Y” Word debate be allowed to continue after the half time break, she was told that it was time to move on…there was an exhibition to promote!

Kick it Out stated at the end that they had no objections to holding a debate in London, and I welcome a debate providing the opportunity to properly engage, not just to be talked at by a few people. But the debate should not be about the coined phrase ‘The “Y” Word’ it should be about anti-semitism in football, something that the majority of the population considers to be wrong and offensive, and which is already illegal.