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.