Statement by @gurdena & @CookeMelanie Answering Questions of Worried Chelsea Fans and Confirming Support For All Football Fans
In the past 36 hours we have received numerous queries from Chelsea fans, concerned that their presence on a Paris Metro train may result in them being hounded by the press, arrested and sent to Paris for trial, and issued with a lengthy football banning order by the English courts.
Alison Gurden’s blog on the media witch-hunt and Twitter lynch-mob received over 3000 views in just 24 hours. It is hoped that Chelsea fans who went to Paris took her advice and either privatised their social media accounts, or only posted comments and photos which cannot be twisted and turned against them. The blog is printed beneath this press release.
We are aware that many fans who were on the Metro train have already been harassed by the press, with reporters camping outside their houses and shouting through their letter boxes. Some fans’ family members and friends have also been tracked down by reporters and asked for comment. The Paris incident itself has faded into the background in much of the newspaper reporting, with the newspapers instead choosing to identify a fan’s employer, school, university, family members and political affiliations. We are aware of fans who have been suspended from their employment, and others who are unable to attend college due to this press hounding.
The question many fans have asked is “will I end up in a Paris jail for just being in the photo taken on the Metro train?”. While we cannot give a definitive answer to this, any fan who is wanted by the Paris police, and who is on UK soil, must first be arrested in the UK under a European Arrest Warrant. This is a legal process, and any arrest can be challenged, however it must be challenged very early on, when the fan first appears in the English Magistrates Court. A fan is unlikely to be interviewed at the police station if they are arrested under a European Arrest Warrant, but they are entitled to legal advice and assistance and to have a family member or friend notified that they are under arrest. A fan can also apply for bail when they first appear in the English Magistrates Court. The European Arrest Warrant is not just a rubber stamp to extradite a fan to Paris, but only if the fan challenges it from the very beginning, if they don’t challenge it, they could find themselves in a Paris court within 14 days.
The Metropolitan Police Service has issued a statement making it clear that it will seek football banning orders on all those involved in the incident on the Metro train. This will no doubt be in the form of a court summons, delivered by hand, to a fan at their home address. It will probably be delivered very early in the morning. These summons are usually accompanied by a costs schedule which states that the costs of opposing the police application will be £5000, but if the fan agrees in writing, there and then, to accept the ban, the costs will be waived. In our experience this is scaremongering. While we accept that the police can ask for costs in a case where they are successful in their football banning order application, the costs rarely reach anywhere close to £5000.
While we do not condone racism in any context, but we do believe in due process of law. It is evident that there is a gap in the protection of fan’s rights in high profile situations such as this. We have experience of high profile football fan cases and we act in the best interests of the football fan client when handling the press, negotiating with employers or colleges, and representing in court. We are independent, not politically connected, nor affiliated to any organisation or football club, and will continue to support Chelsea FC fans, and any other fans facing a trial by media.
Alison Gurden, Barrister, 1 Gray’s Inn Square Chambers
Melanie Cooke, Solicitor.
The media and social media outpouring of hatred towards the Chelsea fans who are alleged to have been racist towards a passenger on the Paris Metro has again opened up the wider attitude that the media and much of the public have towards football fans.
I have watched the video, which has gone viral, and on the face of it, it shows a black male being pushed off of the Metro train a few times by some white males who have been identified as Chelsea fans. There is also singing which appears to be either identify the fans as racist or as one fan has told the media, as a song about John Terry and his acquittal of a racism charge.
Its not the video that concerns me, in due course, the police will no doubt identify those fans who were doing the pushing and the singing and apply for Section 14b Football Spectators Act football banning orders on them. These orders can be applied for in the English Magistrates Court, they are civil, and will not amount to criminal charges, and have a lesser burden of proof.
The fear is that the police will apply for orders on anyone who is identified as being near the doors of that carriage. I have appealed decisions of the Magistrates Court ordering Section 14b civil football banning orders for 3 years on fans for doing nothing more than standing in a train carriage holding a bottle of beer and wearing a football scarf. Fortunately the Crown Court usually sees sense and overturns the ban, but not before the fan has been outed as a ‘hooligan’. This can have grave consequences on their lives, such as loss of jobs, promotion, or college course, none of which they can get back when their football banning order is overturned.
Unlike the assertion of the Press, some other commentators and even the Met Police, it is not possible for criminal charges to be brought against the fans in the English courts. And therein lies the problem… None of the fans who were on that Metro carriage and who had their photo taken, will be given the opportunity to have the allegations made against them aired in court in front of a jury. Certain people are already being identified by the press as ‘thugs’ and ‘racist’ when in actual fact the video shows nothing more than them standing on the Metro train. The social media fury has turned into a witch hunt and a lynchmob, and people who have not been charged with any offences have had their details taken from their social media accounts and published around the World. Try telling an employer that the fact your name, face, and where you work is plastered on the front page of a tabloid is all a bit of a misunderstanding.
Social media is now the new judge and jury. Twitter users are calling for a 17 year old to ‘hand himself in’ after he gave an interview in which he said he was in the Metro train carriage. Worse still there are some very vile and abusive comments being posted about him, by professional adults, the very people who are taking such a stance against racist abuse are themselves abusing in another form, and that makes them no better than anyone who has carried out racist abuse.
I always inform football fans who are facing criminal charges that unfortunately, as they are a football fan, they are guilty until proven innocent, and this has never been more evident than what I have seen tonight in the newspapers, tv and social media. All of a sudden everyone has a comment on racist football fans..especially if it comes with a slot on national tv, or a photo in the national press.
One of the first things I ask fans I represent is for them to pass me their social media account details. What they may think is football banter, others may decide is offensive. I am giving that warning to all Chelsea fans tonight, if your Facebook, twitter or instagram accounts are open to the public, be sure there is nothing on there which can be twisted by the press. I have dealt with cases in the past where the family members of a fan have been threatened via Facebook for nothing more than being linked to the fan and an obvious family member. Don’t for one minute think that the populist media will not troll your Facebook account to find out what they can and use it to their advantage.
This furore will die down in a couple of days and the media will have moved onto something else, and the twitter users who have trolled the 17 yr old fan will go back to posting funny videos of cats. The damage that may be done to a fan who has been outed may not go away so easily. An employer will not overturn a suspension or a dismissal due to the fact the media attention has died down, a fan’s children will still face the prospect of cyber bullying from those with nothing better to do.
All I ask is that if you are a Chelsea fan you protect yourself and think long and hard about what you post on social media in the next few days, and if you have open accounts, it may be wise to make them private for a few days. If you are one of the twitter lynchmob, please think carefully about what you are posting as you may be ruining the lives of people you have never met, are never likely to meet, and who have caused you no harm.
‘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.