My client, known as Tommy Robinson, is a Luton Town FC football fan. On Saturday 27th August 2016 he went to watch Cambridge United FC v Luton Town FC with two friends and five children under 11, between them. All the children were in Luton Town FC shirts.
Neither my client nor his friends were involved in any disorder throughout the entire day in Cambridge. Before and after the match, Mr Robinson was with his group of friends and the children, and spent most of his time at the fair on Parkers Piece, Cambridge. He entered the Grain & Hop Store Public House at the end of a pleasant afternoon with the children. However within half an hour, he and his children were subjected to distressing and unwarranted harassment by Cambridgeshire Police officers who told him that he and his children had to leave the City of Cambridge to prevent disorder.
This is believed to be a blatant misuse of a dispersal order against a football fan who did nothing more than go on a family day out: attend a football match, watch a football match on a TV in a pub with friends, and attend the fair with children.
There were no issues with either Home or Away supporters in the pub, or to my knowledge, in any other pubs in the area. So why have football fans who have attended a football match with their young children been targeted, harassed and treated with contempt by the police?
Cambridgeshire Police have issued a statement claiming that 18 Luton Town FC football fans were dispersed from the City in order to prevent disorder, but that there was no need for them to be served with notices as they left of their own free will. There is video evidence to the contrary which clearly shows that Mr Robinson was told he had no option but to leave the City. Sadly this is the police PR machine in action, yet another example of the spin that a police force will put on their actions to justify treating football fans like second class citizens.
I am not aware of anyone else who was dispersed, and request that any Luton Town FC football fans who were dispersed from the City of Cambridge on Saturday to make contact with me in order that a full picture of events on that day can be obtained. It would help clarify whether the Cambridgeshire Police count of 18 people being dispersed includes the five children under the age of 11 who were in tears as they were followed by police officers.
I would also like to know if the other people who were dispersed were followed back to the train station by Cambridgeshire Police officers and video recorded by the officers for the whole of this route. It is a shame that the police officers chose to continue following and filming when it would have been clear that this police harassment was causing the children to become very distressed.
I believe the main objective was to try and obtain ‘evidence’ against my client. Upsetting young children who were peacefully walking to the train station on the orders of the police would be considered by many to be provocative, not that this tactic succeeded.
I also ask that anyone who was in the Grain & Hop Store Public House or who witnessed my client, his friends and their children being followed back to Cambridge train station to contact me, particularly if they have video footage or photographs.
This casual misuse of dispersal orders against football fans by police officers cannot continue to be tolerated.
Mobile: 07941 212357
Want to know more about the police powers to use dispersal orders on football fans?…it is explained here in an old post Dispersal Orders and Millwall Fans…. The reality of travelling to Coventry without a ticket.
Yesterday Lewisham Police put out a tweet explaining that they had arrested a fan for theft of the matchball at Millwall FC v Sheffield United FC after it had been kicked into the stands out of play. According to the Police this was because of a complaint by Millwall FC. While I don’t intend to comment in this case other than to say that it appears to be overkill, and sadly in its effort to justify the arrest Lewisham Police twitter feed ended up making some inappropriate comments including making fun of the fact a male had been arrested in front of his son with #Canwehaveourballback. And that the Club is trying to turn around its media image and therefore the arrest was justified.
It’s a shame that the Club is more concerned about turning around this, so called, media image only when it suits it. In February 2016 at the Millwall v Peterborough match there was some disorder, which the Club was quick to condone, and did not offer any support for those who were arrested. What the Club has failed to add to its media image is that fact that the whole incident of disorder occurred because a Club steward lied about being assaulted. Because of that lie, the police entered the stand, and the subsequent disorder occurred when the fans took exception to the police handling of the incident. While I believe the police handling of the incident was overkill, it doesn’t detract from the fact that the cause of the incident, and of fans subsequently being criminalised (and some facing a football banning order) was a Club representative, who has been quietly removed from stewarding duties. As to why the steward was initially involved in the incident? Sadly, despite requests, the Club would not provide details on why the steward was initially involved with harassing a fan, but there is an indication that it was due to the fact that the fan was blocking the view of some of the more corporate members of the Club.
This isn’t the only incident of the Club failing to back its fans. Last season, British Transport Police put out a very inappropriate tweet saying that any fans travelling to Coventry for Coventry City FC v Millwall FC and who did not have a ticket, would be dispersed from the City under police dispersal powers. It was after my intervention with British Transport Police that they backtracked on this, but the Club remained silent and did not support the fans.
Clearly the Club is not trying to improve its media image with the fans, but with those who, to put it bluntly, don’t matter. It’s the fans who matter and this lack of support, which is not just a Millwall FC problem shows that the fans are not being given the support they deserve. If a Club won’t support fans when they are facing court due solely to the wrong actions of a Club steward, so in effect due to the wrongful actions of the Club itself, when will a club support its fans?
I’m not a Millwall FC fan so I can make this complaint without fear of repercussions of the Club. I appreciate that genuine fans are placed in a very difficult position with football clubs these days, as the recent letters to Charlton FC fans have shown, complain about a club on social media and face your season ticket being removed. In other words..criticise the Club and you will be punished. Its a shame that Millwall FC didn’t see fit to make a complaint about their steward attempting to pervert the course of justice, making a false police complaint and wasting police time..but hey..that may have affected the Club media image, far better to blame the fans…
Picture this.. you are travelling to Euro 2016 with a couple of friends, you have paid in excess of £350 for your weekend trip, including flights and accommodation. At the airport you are stopped because your name is on a passenger manifest for a flight to France, and this passenger manifest has been provided to the UK Football Policing Unit in advance. Little do you know that a police officer in a ‘streamlined’ unit within the UKFPU has decided that you should be stopped from travelling to the Euros because you have a previous conviction for violence, which is not football related and was committed some years ago. You are told you can’t travel, your passport is taken and you are told to turn up at the magistrates court the next morning. The next morning you turn up at court, but you can’t have the court duty lawyer as the provision under which you have been stopped, and your passport taken, doesn’t fall within the duty lawyer scheme as its civil and not criminal.
You attend court, unrepresented, have not had advance sight of the papers that the CPS (acting as agents for the UKFPU) serve on the day. You can’t challenge those papers as you have no lawyer and have had no time to prepare or collate your own evidence that would disprove the UKFPU’s claims that you are a football hooligan. The court decides that the UKFPU wouldn’t have acted without good reason …right? And your passport is retained and you told that you can either accept the football banning order that day or wait at least 2 months for a court date to prove that you are not a football hooligan. You have the audacity to challenge the football banning order so the CPS ask for draconian bail conditions (as if taking away your passport and ruining your trip is not enough, the conditions include not to travel on the rail network when your team is playing football, and exclude you from your own town centre on match days).
Two months later, you attend court, the CPS and Police attend on behalf of the UK Football Policing Unit and put forward their ‘evidence’ to the court, which doesn’t stand up to cross examination – “So officer you are telling me that as my client has attended away football matches, stood in the away end with his friends and nothing happened, on more than one occasion, that this is evidence that this is evidence he is a risk of violence or disorder in the future?….hmmm”. Within 10 minutes of the Magistrates going out to make a decision on whether to impose a football banning order, they return and decline the application.
However by then your name has been published in the press as the police were more than happy to publish details of those stopped at the airport, your movements have been restricted for 2 months and you have been through the stress of the pending legal proceedings, and the fact that the Police have told you they will make an application for up to £5000 in costs unless you accept the football ban.
This isn’t an isolated incident. Football fans stopped at St Pancras, told they couldn’t travel, despite explaining that they did not have football related disorder convictions and were holding the Euros tickets for friends who were already in France, who were then told once the last train to Marseille had left London, that they could have their passport back as the UKFPU was no longer continuing with the application for a football banning order. Football fans stopped by police on the orders of the overzealous UKPFU to only find out later that the last names and dates of birth had been confused and that the fan could have travelled, but by then it was too late as they had missed their flight or train. Police, on the orders of the UKFPU turning up on the doorstep of fans who had no intention of traveling to France, and ordering the fans to surrender their passports and attend court within 24 hours. The list of examples is endless.
And all by the UK Football Policing Unit which has no power in legislation to apply for Football Banning Orders and so has ordered police to do so on its behalf, even in cases where the police do not want to apply for a football banning order. This Unit was staffed 24 hours a day during the Euros with 8 police officers, 4 Inspectors and 4 Crown Prosecutors, all of whom are public servants paid out of public funds and who could have been doing something much more useful during the Euros than making these applications. I question whether this was nothing more than empire building by the Director or Assistant Director of the UK Football Policing Unit.
Sadly I am too busy dealing with the mess left behind by this ‘streamlined’ (as the UKFPU called it) process to follow up on my suspected mismanagement of this UKFPU Euro’s campaign, but if anyone is interested in knowing more, my suggestion would be some freedom of information requests surrounding the number of people stopped, compared to the number actually taken to court, and the number of successful applications. Also the number of doorstep applications served (as they were clearly a means of the UKFPU boosting up its figures) and of those the number which were continued with at court, and the number where a football banning order was imposed. Of course the costs to the taxpayer of staffing this Unit during the Euros should also be questioned. I am certain there is an abuse of power argument here, but i’m just not in the position to devote the time to make it.
My Client, known as Tommy Robinson, has been served with an application for a football banning order by Chief Constable of Bedfordshire Police. The main purpose of Bedfordshire Police serving this football banning order was to prevent Tommy Robinson from traveling to France for the Euros. Following an application to the Court, the court has now seen fit to remove that draconian restriction on his liberty.
However Bedfordshire Police persist in making the civil football banning order application, and this application will be heard by the court in September 2016. Tommy Robinson will contest this application.
The mainstay of the application by Bedfordshire Police is that Tommy Robinson, while in France was pictured wearing an Anti ISIS T Shirt, and holding up an English Saint George Cross flag with ‘Fuck ISIS’ written across it, and that this was aimed at inciting racial hatred against muslims. Both I and my client are very concerned that the Chief Constable of Bedfordshire Police and the UK Football Policing Unit have equated Tommy Robinson’s demonstration against a banned extremist terrorist organisation as being the same as showing hatred towards people of the muslim faith. The Prime Minister David Cameron in his House of Commons speech on 2nd December 2015 refered to the ‘Evil’ of ISIS, and that British Muslims were appalled by ISIS. He further said that the attacks in Syria by the British Military were “far from an attack on Islam, we are engaging in the defence of Islam…failing to act would betray British Muslims”. It now appears that both Bedfordshire Police and the UK Football Policing Unit are linking ISIS to the general muslim people and population, because it suits their purpose of the campaign of harassment against Tommy Robinson.
I am concerned that this application is brought on the basis of a harassment campaign against Tommy Robinson, such that the Assistant Director of the United Kingdom Football Policing Unit, has become involved and provided a statement to the effect that as Tommy Robinson has a high social media profile, and is associated with Pegida UK this is likely to act as a catalyst for disorder and violence outside of the United Kingdom. This clearly is an attack on Tommy Robinson’s freedom of speech and association, and is in direct contravention of the evidence which the UK Football Policing Unit have that Tommy Robinson travelled to France during the period that the England football team played in Marseille, yet he chose not to travel to Marseille, but instead was in Paris without any incident of violence or disorder.
Tommy Robinson will vigorously defend this application against him. On Bedfordshire Police’s own admission, there is no evidence that Tommy Robinson has been involved in any reported football related disorder for at least the past 5 years.
Alison Gurden, Barrister, 1 Gray’s Inn Square Chambers
Football Fan? Travelling Overseas In The Next Few Weeks? You Are Likely To Be Stopped At The Airport or Port… Here’s Why…..
Over the past few weeks, Police Forces from around the Country and the Home Office have been putting out media spin about football fans and the Euros. Headlines explaining how they are working to ensure football hooligans don’t travel overseas and cause trouble in France.
But what these headlines haven’t said is that the Home Office UK Football Policing Unit has been expanded with the aim of stopping football fans from travelling overseas, as a means of obtaining more football banning orders against fans. And all this, so that the football policing operation can be hailed a success as more bans have been obtained…on people who would ‘obviously’ have caused trouble at the Euros in France.
Likewise there has been a lot of spin about whether the Euros Policing Operation is lawful. Whether it is, or not, that’s not going to assist those fans stopped at the airport or port. Any legal challenge will have to be at a later stage, and only if the fans are stopped and can show it wasn’t justified. For now, I’m more interested in what a fan should do if they are stopped from leaving the country over the next few weeks.
The Ports Operation, as it is referred to by the police and Home Office, starts tomorrow. This means that police officers will be at ports and airports checking the details of those travelling overseas. This applies to everyone, not just those who have tickets to the Euro matches, or who are travelling to France. Those flying or catching a ferry to mainland Spain or catching the Eurostar to Belgium will also be monitored by the police. The police on the Ports Operation have been given instructions by the UK Football Policing Unit to prevent anyone who has a previous football related criminal conviction (in the last five years) or non football violent or disorderly conviction (in the past three years) from travelling unless the police believe they are definitely not going to France for the Euros. But it actually goes further than this, as a criminal conviction is not required if it is believed that a person has caused or contributed to disorder or violence in the past three years.
The police have the powers under the Football Spectators Act to detain a person for up to 6 hours in order to carry out enquiries, and at any time in those 6 hours to seize a person’s passport, which essentially stops them from travelling. There will be 4 Inspectors on call in the UK Football Policing Unit to authorise a person’s detention and surrender of passport. There are another 8 police officers in this unit to build a case for court to ensure that a football banning order application is made within 24 hours. Hence the reason it has to be seen as a success.. As the UK Football Policing Unit doesn’t want egg on its face – funded by the Home Office as a costly necessary extra, and not obtaining any bans, that’s not good for those counting targets!
Some dedicated football officers have spent the last few months preparing ‘bad character’ packs on some fans who they wish to ban. So in effect the police are ready to go with any applications, not quite the same as the fans who are ready to go with their holiday sun screen and shorts!
So what should fans do? My suggestion is that, if you think you may be stopped as part of the Ports Operation, prepare your own ‘good character’ pack. Include character references, if you are travelling overseas to the Euros have evidence that you have travelled overseas to matches previously. You should also ensure you have evidence of accommodation booked, who you are travelling with, and for how long.
This is not to say that everyone travelling to France, Spain or Belgium will be stopped and questioned by the police, but if you are a football fan, the chances are you will be asked about your plans. The Ports Operation is quite slick, the police know who they are looking for, and the details will be held on the UKFPU computers, so travelling out of an airport or port somewhere else around the country won’t prevent a stop by police, chances are, by the time you get to the airport, the police will already know who is booked onto a flight.
If you are stopped, and detained, myself and Melanie Cooke will be available on call throughout the Euro period to assist, and if necessary to attend court for you. Anyone stopped can only be detained for 6 hours, although their passport can be seized. They should then be given a court date within 24 hours to apply for the return of their passport, or alternatively for the police to apply for a football banning order. And that’s where the good character information comes into play. It will be easier for me to defend a police application for a football banning order or request return of a passport if I have a bit more than a copy of a boarding pass or ferry ticket. Be prepared to play the police and UK Football Policing Unit at their own game (no pun intended).
Hopefully you won’t be stopped, but if you are stopped: contact me on 07941 212357 or Mel Cooke on 07834 483092. We are available 24/7 during the Euros.
The World is Not Rosy & Delicate. Law Schools and Senior Police Officers Need To Grow Some Balls & Stop Pretending That It Is.
A couple of weeks ago I rang a friend at midnight and said “talk to me and make me laugh…” He didn’t ask any questions he just did as I asked. Half an hour later, after I was back to my usual self, he said ” so what was it this time?” I told him about the CCTV I’d just watched.. A youth turning into a street where I knew he was going to be killed, and how for the next 7 minutes I’d watched him die on CCTV.
My friend is a cop and I do the same for him when he has been to a particularly bad road accident, has entered a house to find a decomposing body, or been first on the scene to a stabbing. It’s what we do, we don’t shy away from it. I won’t say it doesn’t have an effect on us because it does, we are at opposite ends of the spectrum, me a Defence lawyer, him a cop in a big city, but we have chosen our jobs and enjoy our jobs. If we didn’t, we would have stuck at them all these years.
So It concerns me that warnings are being given out to students in criminal law lectures. The reality is that those who want to practice criminal law need to be able to represent the client no matter what. That CCTV may have affected me when I first watched it, but by the time it is shown to a jury I have to be fully composed. My client needs to know that I will fight their case, not fall at the first difficult hurdle. There is no point in treating students with kid gloves they need to see the World for what it is, and if they don’t like it, now is the time to get out, not when they are sitting in an interview room at the police station while a client is being shown photos of a young child he is alleged to have beaten and raped.
There will be those who say ‘ but not all crime is as serious as your cases’ and fortunately that’s right, but as a police station legal representative, you can’t pick and choose your cases, you get what is in the cells, or alternatively what your own client is alleged to have committed. And as a defence barrister you take on a case, no matter what, you don’t pick and choose the ‘nice’ ones.
I’m increasingly worried about the way we are training and treating the lawyers of the future.. Last year I was on a pupillage training committee (not with my chambers) and sat through hours of students providing vanilla answers to the vanilla question ‘who would you invite to a dinner party and why?’ I swear if one more student said ‘Nelson Mandela I was going to shoot myself! In an effort to liven up the session, I provided a photo of a woman who had a very large bum implant and asked ‘5 reasons why you would, and 5 reasons why you wouldn’t’. Apparently that wasn’t professional and I was encouraged the leave the committee.
The fact is, life isn’t vanilla, as a lawyer, in whatever area of law you practice, people rarely come to you happy, and with easy to resolve problems. Being a lawyer is about thinking and arguing through a problem to get your client the best result possible & hopefully justice. It’s not about not being offended and not offending anyone else.
Today, Greater Manchester Police have apologised for words shouted during their terrorist training exercise. Well quite frankly, the Chief Constable of Greater Manchester should be ashamed of himself for allowing an apology to be given. Terrorist attacks happen.. And it’s only a matter of time before another one happens on UK soil. I want emergency services and a public who are able to respond as effectively as possible, and that involves being faced with realism. Many of those same people complaining about Allahu Akbar being shouted probably have Homeland or the Following or 24 on their tv box as their favourite shows. It’s ok to watch this stuff on the tv, but in real life, where it could actually affect them? No, let’s pretend that doesn’t happen… Well 7/7, Paris and Brussels airport tell us otherwise.
We are moving to a society where everyone has to be protected from everything, social media has a lot to do with this. It’s very easy for a person to complain to the World from the comfort of their sofa. But those same people may be shopping in a major city when a terrorist attack occurs, and although I’d very much love a real life Kevin Bacon to turn up and save me, the reality is, it’s much more likely to be a PC who was involved in one of those training exercises and who has learnt from it, who runs towards the scene. I think I can put money on it not being the apologetic Chief Constable!
Sadly, it is the second time in a week that I have had to write a blog advising Millwall FC fans of their rights.. the victimisation of Millwall FC fans seems to continue.
British Transport Police (BTP) today sent out a tweet telling Millwall FC fans that if they travel to Coventry without a ticket for the match on Saturday April 16th April they will likely be served with a notice to leave the City by West Midlands Police.
The reasoning behind this seems to be that the match is a sell out so any fan travelling without a ticket must be doing so to cause disorder or act in an anti-social manner. Once again, this shows that the fan culture is clearly not understood by British Transport Police, who in recent months
- has held a high level conference purely to discuss how it considers travelling football fans to be a menace on the trains;
- has encouraged the train companies to make ‘dry trains’;
- has increased the number of football banning order applications against football fans, including asking the court for a 5 year football banning order which includes a curfew so that the fan cannot leave their house while their team is playing, despite the fact they live nowhere near the football stadium.
Anyone would think that British Transport Police are trying to justify the funding of the new BTP football units which have sprung up around the country.
So what is the dispersal notice? Under Section 34 of the Anti Social Behavior, Crime and Policing Act 2014 an Inspector may authorise the use of dispersal powers for a period up to 48 hours, only in a specified area and there must be reasonable grounds for believing that this is necessary for reducing crime or disorder, or harassment, distress or alarm to members of the public. In other words, the Inspector cannot just authorise that the whole of Coventry is subject to a dispersal notice, there has to be good reason.
I have heard of many fans being served with dispersal notices and challenging the notices at a later stage. This is often the wrong approach. If the Inspector didn’t have good reason to authorise the use of the dispersal powers in the first place, then any notice issued to a fan is unlawful. It is common that when I make an application for the Inspector authorisation and justification, the CPS decide to drop the case and I never receive the authorisation. Call me suspicious but that usually leads me to believe that the Inspector didn’t quite have the reasonable belief of disorder by football fans after all.
British Transport Police, which does not have the jurisdiction over Coventry City Centre is merely being the mouth piece for West Midlands Police. It is interesting to note that neither West Midlands Police or the Coventry City FC Football Unit seem to have made this announcement.
If the Inspector does authorise a dispersal area, that does not mean everyone who is in that area can be told to leave. The requirements (under Section 35 of the Act) are that a police officer has reasonable grounds to suspect that the behaviour of the person has contributed to or is likely to contribute to –
(a) members of the public in the area being harassed, alarmed or distressed, or
(b) the occurrence of crime or disorder in the area.
And the police officer must also consider that giving a direction to leave is necessary for the purpose of removing or reducing the likelihood of the events in (a) or (b).
In other words, the mere fact a fan does not have a ticket is not justification for them being told to leave the City, there has to be something more.
However, while this all sounds as though the powers cannot be used against Millwall FC fans, the reality is not as clear cut. If a police officer issues a dispersal notice to a fan, and they refuse to leave, the chances are they will be arrested. The police have powers to arrest under Section 39 of the Act. It will then be for the fan to show, either at the police station, or in court (if they are charged) that the authorisation or notice was unlawful. In my experience, this means a fan will end up having to travel back to Coventry at a later date to challenge this in court, or alternatively will have spent a good few hours in a police station, and if they have not been arrested previously, the fan will find that on arrest their fingerprints and DNA are taken. The fan may also find that they are placed on bail conditions not to go to football matches until the case goes to court. So although legally there may not be any justification for the dispersal notice, it may still cause a lot of inconvenience to the fan, and they may miss the rest of the season due to bail conditions not to attend a football match.
My advice is that if you are a Millwall FC fan, without a ticket, there is nothing stopping you from going to Coventry, but if you are issued with a dispersal notice, leave the area and then challenge it. Do not challenge it with the police at that time as you will no doubt be arrested. If you are arrested, ask for a lawyer and ask them to ask for the Inspector’s authorisation. If you end up with bail conditions not to go to a football match, these can be challenged but it will mean a trip back to Coventry, whereas if you have a lawyer in the police station, you are much less likely to end up with bail conditions.
Print out this blog and take it with you.. if you are arrested, it may help with negotiations with a custody sergeant.
Both myself and Melanie Cooke can advise on this if you are asked to leave the area, or are arrested, or charged. Keep our numbers handy:
@gurdena 07941 212357
Melanie Cooke @Football_Legal is regulated to offer duty solicitor assistance in the police station 07834 483092
With the recent publication of photos in the press of football fans who the police wish to question following the Oxford United v Millwall FC match, this is a reminder to football fans that, sadly, you are often portrayed as hooligans until you can prove otherwise.
If you are a Millwall FC fan and your photo has been published in the press, then the chances are that you will be identified to the police at some stage. This may then lead to an early morning front door knock by the police and arrest. It is often better to make arrangements to visit the police station and identify yourself as being in the photo. Especially if you have not been arrested for anything previously. Once you are arrested the police are entitled to take your fingerprints and DNA and this will be held on file forever more, whether you are charged with an offence or not. If you make arrangements for a voluntary interview at the police station with a lawyer, and can show that you are are either mistakenly identified or that you have done nothing wrong, it is likely that you will not be arrested and your DNA and fingerprints will not be taken.
If you are arrested, there is a high likelihood that you will be charged with a football related offence unless you are legally represented. The police may tell you that it will take a while for a lawyer to attend custody to represent you. Don’t be fooled into believing that without a lawyer you will be in and out of the police station in no-time. Speak to any football fan who has been arrested, 5-6 hours is the standard detention time in a police station, whether or not a person is represented by a lawyer. If you are not legally represented in interview, the officer will no doubt state that he or she thinks that you could be suitable for a caution and release from custody. You will then be held in custody for quite a while longer and then be told by the officer that, unfortunately their superior has said that a caution is not possible and that you will have to be charged and it can be sorted out at court. This is standard as the Home Office guidance is that all football related offences should be charged rather than a caution issued. The next thing which is likely to happen is that the custody sergeant will issue bail conditions that include not to go to Millwall FC matches, but can be as specific as not to leave your own home from an hour before Millwall FC play until 5 hours after final whistle. That’s a home curfew on a Saturday and some weekday evenings, and can last for months until a court date! You will also be issued with a notice saying that an application will be made for a football banning order.
Hence, a quick ‘chat’ down the police station has turned into your fingerprints and DNA being taken, charge and court date, a home curfew and potential football banning order. It sounds extreme but unfortunately in relation to football fans it’s the same thing I am hearing week after week.
I represent football fans who are charged with football and non football offences and who find themselves in court. When I tell people about the work that I do, most say.. ‘oh football hooligans’ and that is often followed by comments such as ‘ I bet you get a lot of Millwall fans’. The reality is quite different, most of the people I represent have never been arrested before and have no links to violence, they couldn’t be further from the ‘hooligan’ tag if they tried. Likewise, the majority of my work does not come from Millwall fans. The Home Office figures which are published every year on arrests at football matches show that in 2014/15 season in the Championship League Millwall FC fan arrests were much lower than Derby County FC or Wolverhampton Wanderers.
Sadly the reputation of Millwall FC in the media, which doesn’t reflect the huge community work of the club or the amazing work and achievements of Millwall Kicks, means that anytime there is a suggestion that Millwall fans have been suspected of disorder at football the media are quick to promote the photos provided by the police or club of those who are believed to have been involved, and are slow to remove them from websites once the person has been identified. This reputation also carries to the court room, and I notice that as soon as the court hears that a football fan is a Millwall FC fan, there are lots of knowing nods by the magistrates, as if to say …’well that is no surprise.’
I cannot say that if you seek legal advice you won’t be charged with an offence and convicted and end up with a football banning order, but with good legal assistance your chances of this not happening are greatly increased. And the sooner you obtain legal assistance the better as it may mean that the negotiations with the police can be carried out prior to a trip to the police station, or before a trial at court. I work closely with Melanie Cooke, a solicitor specialising in football fan cases, and many of our cases do not reach trial due to the negotiations we are able to carry out beforehand. My advice is that if your photograph has been published in the media, you contact myself or Melanie Cooke and work out the next steps.
Finally, social media is the new investigatory tool for the media and some police officers. Anything you put on a social media account is on the internet forever, and may come back and haunt you. My advice is that if your photo is published in the press, lock down or close down your social media account for a while. A photo of a football fan being chased by the police as a profile picture may seem funny, but when it is shown to non football fan magistrates, it takes on a whole new meaning!
The Chelsea Paris Metro incident is a prime example of how people who did nothing more than stand on a metro train had their lives dragged through the mud due to the postings they had made on social media. Many of those identified by the press were not suspected by the police of being involved in the incident, yet they were still identified by the press as Chelsea fans, had their social media postings published, and under a banner headline which said ‘Chelsea Racists’ with a tiny disclaimer at the bottom of the page which said that not all of those in the photo may have been involved in the incident, and who reads the small print?
So, although this might seem like self promotion, the moral of this blog is .. if the police or media want to speak to you.. the only word which should come out of your mouth is ‘lawyer’. Trust me, in the long run, the less a fan’s mouth runs away with them when speaking to the police or media, the better the outcome.
Follow me on twitter @gurdena
I can be contacted on 07941 212357 or email@example.com
Melanie Cooke can be contacted on 07834 483092 or firstname.lastname@example.org
I could write something wordy and legal about knife crime, but I don’t want to get to the lawyers and the police, that’s preaching to the converted. The reality is that, like it or not, those we need to reach with the knife crime reality are those who are allowing these knives to walk out of their front door every day, the parents and the schools.
I spend many hours with parents who won’t accept until its too late that their son or daughter is carrying a knife which they have taken from their kitchen or which has been bought on the internet with their debit card. Likewise, I spent many hours with youths who tell me that knives are rife in their school but that the schools don’t like to accept it for fear of bad publicity, or with police officers who tell me that the schools will not permit them to go into schools and carry out knife searches when the students are present as they don’t want to give the wrong impression to parents.
Well, these parents and schools need to wake up. Their sons and daughters are carrying knives, they are taking them from the kitchen or garage, they are buying them on the internet and having them imported from places like China for less than £10. Any every one of these knives when taken out of the house becomes a potential weapon.
The police have powers to search schools and students for knives, but until schools work with the police to allow random searches, the students will continue to carry these knives in their bags and clothes. The police use the term disruption, and that‘s what random school searches will become, the majority of pupils will stop bringing knives to school as it will be too difficult. But without the support of the schools, these random searches will never happen, and Head Teachers will continue to stand in front of the press and give a glowing tribute to another life lost.
There is a big debate on stop and search. I don‘t want to get into that argument, but it is clear that random searches of a class or year group or section of the school will not be subject to the same stop and search arguments, it won’t be targeting certain individuals, and it will be sanctioned by the school.
This will require a strong Governor Board to stand up to parents who complain about their son or daughter being searched when they have done nothing wrong. Those same parents who may one day be standing infront of the press taking about how their son or daughter was a budding athlete, footballer, musician, until their life was taken by a knife.
Knife crime is tough.. it kills…and the only way to try and reduce it is to give out tough messages.
There is legislation drafted to prosecute anyone who orders a knife on the internet from overseas, unfortunately it is not yet in force, and there is no date for it to come into force. As a defence lawyer, I will no doubt be criticised for saying that I think there should be tougher laws in place on importation of weapons, but as a defence lawyer I see the lives destroyed by knives, the clients who end up in prison or a young offenders institution for possession or use of a knife, bought on the internet from China for the same price as a KFC family bucket meal. If a parent’s debit card is linked to a purchase and it’s the parent who is getting a knock from the police and being asked to go the police station they are more likely to question what their son or daughter is ordering on the internet.
The police can only do so much and, to be blunt (no pun intended), once a knife is out of the house or school it’s possibly too late. The fact it’s an offence to carry a knife doesn’t act as a deterrent to many knife carriers, nor has the increase in sentence had a knock on effect of a downward spiral or knife possession. So perhaps parents and schools are the answer..or at least part way to the answer of reducing the number of youths who are bleeding out cold on the pavement.
Despite the fact there are very few British fans involved in trouble at overseas football matches, Sections 21A,B & C of the Football Supporters Act 1989 are very draconian and may permit a police officer to detain an innocent fan and hold them until after their flight has departed. In other words, stopping an innocent fan from attending overseas matches, despite the fact they have paid for the plane ticket, accommodation, and tickets to the matches.
So what does the law really say on this?
A police officer in uniform, not in civvies, may detain a British football fan for 4 hours ( or 6 with the approval of an Inspector or above) at an airport or port, but at the time of the detention they must have reasonable grounds to suspect the fan has caused or contributed to violence or disorder previously. This means the Police officer cannot just…
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