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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About gurdena

Social Justice Lawyer, interested in all things contentious. Specialising in criminal law, and anything criminal justice related, also employment law. Door tenant at 1 Grays Inn Square chambers. Find out more at www.alisongurden.com

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