Crystal Palace FC v Charlton Athletic FC Capital One Cup, Banned Fans & the Dispersal Zone

Following on from an announcement that the Metropolitan Police Service will put in place a dispersal zoneimage around Selhurst Park on 23rd September 2015 from 12:00 until 01:00 on 24th September 2015, I’ve had a few queries from fans who are on football banning orders and are Crystal Palace FC Fans or Charlton Athletic FC fans as to whether this applies to them. The answer is that the terms of a fan’s Football Banning Order are the terms which apply and the fan should comply with those terms as they usually do. If the dispersal zone falls into the area from which the fan is banned, then it does apply, but if the fan’s football banning order does not restrict them from part of the dispersal area they are not banned from it.

A dispersal zone is not a banned zone. For those interested in looking up the law, it comes from Section 35 of the Anti Social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014. This allows a police officer in uniform to direct a person in the dispersal zone to leave the zone (or part of it) and not to return for the period of time the dispersal zone is in place, in this case until after 01:00 on 24th September 2015. The police officer should only direct the person to leave it they have grounds to suspect that the behaviour of the person has contributed to or is likely to contribute to members of the public being harassed, alarmed or distressed, or contribute to crime or disorder.

The reality of this is that fans who will not be banned from the area unless they are spoken to by a police officer and served with a dispersal notice. Any fans who are given a dispersal notice, and who think they were given the notice unfairly, should keep hold of the written notice they are handed by the police and make contact with me and I will look into whether it was a valid dispersal. However, I anticipate that any fans who are setting off pyro (including bangers) in the streets within the dispersal zone, will be served with a dispersal notice, likewise anyone who appears drunk, or who appears to be goading fans. The mere fact that a fan does not have a ticket for the match does will not be sufficient to justify the issuing of a dispersal notice.

Any CPFC or CAFC fans who are on a football banning order and not sure of where they stand in relation to the dispersal zone, such as fans who live or work in the area, should contact me and I can make enquiries with the Metropolitan Police Football Unit on their behalf, but a dispersal zone being in place should not prevent a fan from going to work or college, or from going home.

A response to Constable Chaos’ blog post on Football Policing

Last week Twitter’s laughing policeman, Constable Chaos posted his own impressions on his day of football policing Football Crazy . I have reblogged this below. While I can’t dispute what he says, because I wasn’t with him, his experience doesn’t reflect mine, nor the majority of police officers I speak to and who police football matches.

Most of his gripes seem to relate more to the fact he had his rest day cancelled, had to get up early to provide mutual aid, ad by virtue of the fact he was providing mutual aid he wasn’t familiar with the town, and he didn’t get a very clear briefing from the Match Command. My response to that is, I feel sympathy for cops who are now facing this on a daily basis in all levels of their duty, but that is not the football fans’ fault. As the Twitter hash tag says #cutshaveconsequences

In reality, hundreds of thousands of fans travel across the country every week to watch their team play football. And these hundreds of thousands of fans are policed by a handful of police officers, compared to the number of police required most Friday and Saturday nights in towns up and down the country.

In a recent case in which I was involved, the UK Football Policing Unit provided a statement in an attempt to show how football fans are hooligans.  The statement covered a 6 week period and included all Premier League and Football League games, as well as a cup game at Wembley. In those 6 weeks there had been 8 incidents of disorder. Sounds bad? More than 1 incident a week? But when cross examined, the Director of the UK Football Policing Unit had to accept that during those 6 weeks there would have been 260 sets of travelling fans, home and away, and that would have accounted for more than a million individuals travelling to a football match. The 8 incidents don’t quite sound so bad now, do they? If I was to ask just one large Metropolitan force how many incidents of disorder they had recorded on a pay day Friday, I’m guessing that the answer would be a lot more than 8.

The problem is not the travelling football fans, it’s the way they are treated by the media, and the Government ( which then trickles down to the police in their policy implementation). Most football matches are either totally police free or have a very low police presence. I attended a match a couple of weeks ago, one police serial (12 officers), 2 football spotters from each club, and a football intelligence officer and match commander were the only police in attendance. None of those officers lost their rest day, or were on mutual aid, and they managed to police over 10000 fans, without a single incidence of trouble.  But that doesn’t make good media coverage.

At a match at the end of last season, fans ran on the pitch in celebration of the result. They were not fighting, or being disorderly, but actually doing the same as the much celebrated England fans in 1966. The next day the newspaper reports had headlines such as ‘Return to the Dark Days of Football’. I can just imagine the first draft of the report saying ‘jubilant fans celebrate their club’s success’ and the Editor deciding that the headline didn’t have enough punch.. ‘I know…. Let’s get the Dark Days of Football headline out again, that always sells papers’.

The Reading Chronicle was forced to apologise to Reading fans last year. It published an article which indicated that Reading fans were thugs and that football required policing, otherwise the hooliganism of the 1980s would return. So weak was the story, that they had to use an actor for the staged photo of a person in a Reading FC shirt, covering their face and holding a stick.  It has to be questioned why the newspaper bothered to run the front page article in the first place as it wasn’t in relation to any football events in Reading, but why publish the truth when fiction sells more papers.

A ‘risk supporter’ is a term that was created by ACPO many years ago, and has stuck ever since. Its current definition is ‘A person, known or not, who can be regarded as posing a possible risk to public order or anti-social behaviour, whether planned or spontaneous, at or in connection with a football event.’ In reality this means that anyone travelling in a large group, anyone singing football songs, or anyone drinking in a pub before the match can easily fall into that description, despite the fact they never have been involved in any football related disorder and probably never will be.  Compare this with the pay day Friday in town, by 11pm at least half of those in town will fall into the risk category if there was a ‘risk reveller’ category. The person who is staggering in the street, the couple having a drunken argument, the usual jostling in the kebab shop queue, the lad denied access to a club or bar who swears at the doorman, and the Hen Do group singing a bad rendition of Beyoncé on the top of the night bus.   Giving football fans the title of risk supporter is nothing more than scaremongering.. It makes the public and the courts think that these fans must be ‘hooligans’ as otherwise they wouldn’t be called ‘risk’.

Football policing is a self perpetuating way for the police forces to make money from the football clubs, justify putting more cops on the beat on a Saturday or Sunday, and provide figures to the Home Office every year to justify the existence of police football units.  In some areas the football stadium is way out of town, on a leisure park. The Kassam Stadium in Oxford is a good example of this.  Thames Valley Police wanted to charge Oxford FC for extra policing resources to patrol the leisure park car park. This wasn’t due to football fans breaking into the cars, as they were all in the football stadium watching the football, but it did mean that TVP could provide a greater police presence for the family taking the kids to Frankie and Benny’s on a Saturday afternoon.

If the briefing by the Match Commander was poor, then that should be taken up with the Force. The match briefings I have been to, and I have been to many, do differ between forces, but should all include the main explanations of the main pubs which will take the fans, whether they are home or away, the areas the serials are tasked to cover, the incident number on which every incident from that day’s policing should be recorded, and whether there is any intelligence about potential disorder.  I have experience of poor match briefings which have resulted in the police marching a group of, so called, Away risk supporters to a pub, and then refusing to let them leave despite the fact it was the designated Home supporters pub.  Yes, someone screwed up there, but it wasn’t the football fans. And despite the fact the two groups of ‘risk’ were forced to stay in the same pub, and alcohol was being served, there was no trouble.

We all have different match day experiences, clearly Chaos had a chaotic experience, but that’s not the fault of the football fans, and they shouldn’t be vilified for choosing a game which ignites the passions of billions of people around the World in a way that no other sport can.

Football Crazy

Originally posted on Constable Chaos - UK Police Blog:

football hooligans 2

It’s that time of year, now that’ summer’s in the air

When 22 wet gits, with their girly curly hair

Kick a ball about, for 90 minutes, sometimes more

And then cry to mummy, when they fall down on the floor

Ohh the rugby players, with their arms and legs all hanging off,

Laugh and call them names, cos a hair is out of place

They make millions each year but should get some proper jobs,

And a number of their fans are a bunch of smelly yobs.

(With apologies to any Spitting Image fans … ohh and any rugby fans who may be disgusted by the mere association Smile )


Yup peeps, it’s August, that time of year when schools have broken up for the summer holidays, families are excitingly taking their well earned vacations to places new and (hopefully) sunny, and you’ve just walked into your first early…

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Chelsea Fan? Did you go to PSGvCFC in feb 2015. You may be on video..

Were you in Paris in February 2015 for the PSG v Chelsea FC match?
Did you drink in Belushi’s (St Christopher’s Inn) before the match?
Were you part of the group walking to the Metro at Gare de Nord to catch the Metro to the Stadium?
Were you on the Metro train on which the incident too place?

Over the past two days the Metropolitan Police Service’s application for a football banning order against four Chelsea fans, following an incident in Paris in February 2015, has been heard in court. The judge has reserved judgment on the applications, and I do not intend, at this stage, to comment on the application or the incident in Paris.

This application has drawn media attention from around the World, and the press have made an application for all video footage shown during this case to be disclosed. The judge has said that he will make a decision next week on whether this video should be disclosed. I am pre-empting that decision incase the judge does decide to permit the press to have a copy of the video. Following a case in 2013 (which was not football related) the courts are expected to make available, to the press, copies of evidence aired in court unless there are good arguments against it.

The video has already been described by the press reporting during the two day hearing and it is clear that there are many Chelsea fans recorded on the video, their faces are clearly seen, and they will be identifiable by people who know these fans. Although the Metropolitan Police Service has not suggested that all those fans on the video are behaving disorderly, the press have already reported the fact that the Metropolitan Police Service has made much of the fact that fans did not disassociate themselves from the group, and that this was a large, intimidating group of Chelsea fans made up almost entirely of risk supporters.

I have concerns that if the video is released to the press, many Chelsea fans on the video may find that they are the subject of press scrutiny, or may find that their employers, family or friends question their involvement. Many fans may not even know that they are considered risk supporters by the police. With this in mind, I ask that Chelsea fans seriously consider any comments they make on social media over the next few days, particularly on open accounts which are easily identifiable, and which the press and employers can easily check. A comment or photo on social media can easily be misinterpreted or twisted, as was seen in some of the press reporting immediately following the incident in Paris.

If the video is disclosed, and any Chelsea fans have concerns about the fact they are identifiable on the video, please contact myself (@gurdena on Twitter; or Melanie Cooke (@cookemelanie on Twitter)

Believe the Fat Cat Lawyer spin if you want, but this is the alternative version of why Criminal lawyers are fighting for Legal Aid

Yesterday I threatened to handcuff myself to a bench in the Magistrates Court until my case was dealt with. Its the second time in the last few months that I have done so. It sounds dramatic, but drastic times call for drastic measures. I actually meant it, and I assume on both occasions I have given the impression that I meant it as the court then found a way to deal with my case!

The courts, Crown Prosecution Service, Police, Probation and defence are all at breaking point, but that does not justify the attitude that I am seeing all too much these days. The ‘well that’s the way it is’ attitude when I complain about the fact that a client who is a youth has been in custody for 5 months and the CPS still haven’t prepared the charges, or a client with mental health issues (who the court insisted entered a plea on the first occasion) has had his trial adjourned three times, or a young mother (at risk of losing her children, job and home if she goes to prison) has attended court five times waiting for papers on her case only to find that the police recommended that the case be discontinued four months ago.

Last night someone described me as a ‘bully lawyer’, that may be so, but I also like to think that I care. I appreciate the “well that’s just the way it is” damage that is done to my clients and their families with the constant delays. I appreciate how it feels to be treated by the criminal justice system as though you don’t exist, whether you are a defendant, witness or victim.

When the legal aid cuts were first mooted, I wrote a piece about the fact I felt very uncomfortable with striking as I did not want to leave a client facing court without representation. However, I have changed my mind. The damage I imagined would be done by the Ministry of Justice legal aid cuts is actually much worse. The latest announcement of another 8.75% cuts to legal aid rates, giving firms only 3 weeks notice of the cuts, will mean that if the criminal legal profession does not act now, there will be no criminal legal profession in 4 years time, and then every defendant who cannot afford a private lawyer will be facing court without representation.

Obviously the Government spin goes into overdrive as soon as any legal aid cuts are mentioned. The latest cuts announcement was accompanied by media reports about hundreds of thousands of pounds of taxpayers money being spent on trials, with the articles cleverly worded to make it seem as though that was all defence fees, when in fact it was the whole trial cost, so included the Prosecution costs, jury costs, court costs and defence fees. But that wouldn’t make such a good defence lawyer bashing headline so why ruin a good story with the truth.

If I had £1 for every time someone has said to me recently “well you will just have to find another type of law to practice” I could handsomely supplement the legal aid cuts. But the reality is that I don’t want to do anything else, and if all criminal lawyers take that advice, there will be no justice. It’s not just about justice for the defendant. What about the victims and witnesses who, if there are no criminal lawyers, will be questioned in court by the person that have accused of committing a crime. What about the jury who will have the very unenviable task of having to determine a person’s guilt or innocence based on the case run by the defendant, with all the confusions and emotions of the defendant thrown into the mix. What about the defendant with mental health problems or youth who are expected to be able to understand the case papers and chase the Crown Prosecution Service for the missing papers. Who is going to raise the valid legal arguments which may make or break a case?

The Ministry of Justice will have you believe that the wealthy defendants will still be represented by good lawyers as they will pay privately, and that all others can be picked up by the pro bono system. This is utter nonsense and just shows how out of touch the Ministry of Justice is with the current criminal justice system. All of the points I have raised above still apply.

*Does that mean that a victim of a violent assault and robbery has to hope the person charged with attacking them is wealthy as that way a lawyer will cross examine them in court. Perhaps we need to have stickers made for our clothing, ‘Please only assault and rob me if you are wealthy’!

*Jurors will have to hope that their defendant can afford a lawyer as that way they will only have to take the obligatory 2 weeks off of work for jury service, but if they are unlucky enough to get an indigent defendant case, they may be looking at four weeks off of work due to the extra time it takes for an unrepresented defendant to deliver his or her case.

*The recently qualified lawyer who works in Mergers and Acquisitions, who works 60 hours a week, and whose employer doesn’t allow them to turn their work phone off, and who has been given the case of a person with mental health difficulties as part of the pro bono package isn’t going to sit in an interview room in Hull with the client for hours trying to get instructions, while at the same time trying to stop them from self harming while sitting at the table. “Oh sorry love, I know you are going to try and cut yourself with that pen as soon as I leave the room, but I really need to take this call from Hong Kong.”

Yes, as defence lawyers we have a bad rep, we are known as Fat Cats, we often don’t help ourselves by appearing in public wearing wigs and gowns – thinking we are making ourselves identifiable, but in reality coming across as totally detached from normal life. But most of the lawyers I deal with day after day are not like that. I spend my time with the most vulnerable, disadvantaged, confused, and scared. I don’t walk around with designer handbags and spend my time at garden parties, but I do..

*answer my phone at 3am to a scared client and receive no money for it;

*work all night to try and ensure that the legal argument the judge has demanded is in front of him at 9am despite the fact I won’t get paid for that work as it is classed as part of case preparation;

*regularly interrupt a family dinner to take a call from a junior colleague in the police station asking advice about a client they are representing. That is a call I don’t get paid for;

*travel 10 hours round trip to visit a client in prison on remand. I get a low fixed fee for the prison visit so long as I can prove it was ‘essential’ (and the Legal Aid Authority puts a lot of hard work into trying to say that I made a 10 hour trip to sit in a tiny room with a client for the fun of it). But I don’t get paid for the 6 hours travel time or the 1 hour waiting to get into the prison. If the prison is out in The Sticks I have to get a taxi from the station, usually at a vastly inflated rate as the taxi firms know there is no other way to get to the prison, and I then have to wait months for my travel expenses (in excess of £100 per trip) to be paid back to me.

*get up at 4:30 and travel half way across the country to get to an obscure court for 9am, only to be told that the case is being adjourned because witnesses have not been warned for the trial. For that wasted day I will receive my travel expenses only;

*sit in a small room with some thoroughly unpleasant clients persuading them that they should plead guilty so that the young victim does not have to face the fear of coming to court;

*have to view nasty photos and watch hours of footage of crimes and witness accounts which would most definitely come with a warning if they were in a fictional film. I can’t talk about this to this anyone, and get no offer of help from the Ministry of Justice to deal with this;

*occasionally find I am on the receiving end of verbal abuse by victims and their families due to the fact I am representing a certain client. I never make a complaint about this, I just get on with the job;

*have to protect my family from repercussions from the media and public for some of the clients I represent. I never make a complaint about this, I just get on with the job.

I’m not special, I’m just a criminal lawyer, trying to keep this profession alive, to encourage the junior lawyers to stay in the criminal system. It is about justice, but with that does flow the fact that even criminal lawyers have to make enough to pay their rent, and if the Government’s current reductions mean that those lawyers won’t be able to pay their rent they will go elsewhere and find work that does pay their rent, which brings me back to the justice issue again..

My Response to an MP’s request for Pro Bono Assistance for their Constituent…

Yesterday I sent out a tweet encouraging lawyers who receive letters from MPs asking for pro bono assistance for their constituents to refuse the work and remind the MPs of the reason for the increase in constituents having to approach their MPs for assistance. It seems I hit a nerve as I became a ‘Top Tweeter’ for the day…I’m sure the invite to the award ceremony and the plaque (or should I say plague) will follow in due course!

There has recently been media suggestion that MPs offices are at breaking point with the increase of constituents asking for legal assistance. Those of us who have worked in social justice for many years are aware of the cuts which have been made to legal funding over the past 10 years, but that since the Legal Aid Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 came into force the system has been at breaking point. Families facing eviction from their homes, workers being paid less than the minimum wage and who wish to bring a claim in the employment tribunal, mothers and fathers fighting for access to their children, are just a few examples of those who are now having to try and negotiate the complex court systems themselves or try and find a law centre where the doors are still open.

My recent experience of cases which I have undertaken pro bono, and which previously had MP involvement is that the claimant has suffered at the hands of an unqualified inexperienced MP or their assistant, such as a constituent providing a copy of the legal advice they had received pro bono to their MP, only to find that the MP sent a letter to the organisation the constituent wished to bring a claim against, and included the legally privileged advice! Other examples are poor advice on the deadlines for submitting a claim so that by the time the constituent submitted the claim form, their claim was out of time, or advice to claim against the wrong person resulting in high wasted costs to the constituent. My general experience of dealing with the MP’s offices are that they are rude, demanding, and have no appreciation for the fact that I also have other clients and that the time I use to undertake pro bono work is actually precious as I try to use it to help as many people as possible, and not to repeatedly send responses to the MP to massage his or her ego.

Hence, I made the decision a while ago that I would not undertake pro bono work for anyone referred from an MP’s office and instead I send back this standard letter. I am happy for anyone reading this to copy this letter and use it.

Rt Hon…..

I acknowledge receipt of your unsolicited letter requesting pro bono assistance for a member of your constituency.

Unfortunately, as I am sure you are aware, both the criminal justice system and the social justice system has suffered scathing legal aid cuts, and in my experience both are at breaking point and only being held together by the goodwill of lawyers and legal caseworkers who undertake pro bono work.

It is a sad reflection on both the Government and the Shadow Government that the invaluable Law Centres and legal centres have seen their funding cut to such a level that, for those which have not been forced to close, they are now unable to assist anywhere near the number of clients who are approaching them for help.

I undertake a very high amount of pro bono work, but have made the decision to support the law centres/advice clinics, Bar Pro Bono Unit, FRU and other charities I endorse, as I consider these to be the most needy, and without the back office support that the privilege of being a Member of Parliament brings.

Hence, I will not be able to assist your constituent in a pro bono capacity. Can I suggest that to best serve your constituents with their legal queries, you make efforts to try and rectify some of the damage that has been done to the social justice system over the past 4 years, afterall it is the power that as a Member of Parliament, you hold in your hands, and a power that us lawyers who are at the coalface cannot wield.

Yours sincerely ”

June 2015 Travel Restrictions on Anyone on Football Banning Order and the Power Struggle of the UK Football Policing Unit

Once again, its coming up to time when football fans in England who are on a football banning order are placed under a restriction of their liberty for no other reason than the National team are playing overseas.

There are two matches coming up, the Ireland v England friendly match on 7th June 2015 and the Euro 2016 qualifier Slovenia v England on 14th June 2015. What this means for fans on a football banning order is that they have to hand in their passports to the police on 2nd or 3rd June 2015, and also have to report to their designated police station between 10am and 1pm on 7th June 2015. Just when that reporting period ends, the next one starts. Fans have to hand in their passports to the police on 9th or 10th June and they can’t be collected until after the match on 14th June 2015.

For many fans, unless they have plans to travel between the 2nd and 15th June 2015, it is probably an easier deal to just leave their passports at the police station until after the 15th June. However, this is a huge restriction on their liberty.

An even bigger restriction on a fan’s personal life and freedom of movement is the reporting restriction on 7th June 2015. The reason the UK Football Policing Unit has put these restrictions in place is because it is possible to travel to Ireland on a driving licence, and the legislation does not permit the UKFPU to require a fan to hand in their driving licence. But let’s face it, fans who are on the police radar will be spotted at the airport or port anyway as they are well known to the football officers, who will be loitering around at all major airports and ferry terminals.

It is questionable whether this isn’t just the UK Football Policing Unit asserting its authority. An authority which has always kept itself below the radar. As a lawyer dealing with football fan cases, it has become increasingly difficult to deal with the UKFPU. It will not engage in communications about fans’ bans, and rarely responds to queries. So why has it suddenly decided to poke its head above the parapet. Call me a cynic but suddenly articles written by the UKFPU are being published in the media, and the newspapers are being fed stories which are are being printed to try and persuade the public that football hooliganism is on the increase and that if we are not careful it will go back to the ‘Dark Days’. This is nothing more than UKFPU spin, the Home Office statistics for the past few years have shown that incidents of football violence are low, compare that to incidents of violence on a Friday and Saturday night in the town centers around England.

It’s a shame that the UKFPU doesn’t think about the impact its reporting restrictions are having on those fans who work on Sundays, who usually take their kids swimming on Sunday morning, or who had plans to take the family away for the weekend. And the reality is that, in certain areas of the country a fan can sign on just after 10am and still catch a flight to Dublin in time for kick off, or shortly after. This reporting restriction will achieve nothing in relation to those fans (if there are indeed any) who are determined to go to Ireland and cause trouble, but will no doubt give the UKFPU some extra brownie points when it is applying to the Government for its next round of funding so that its staff can travel around the World promoting the UKFPU. Why let the right of movement of hardworking fans get in the way of that?

Just to clarify, if you are on a football banning order, you must hand in your passport to the police on 2nd or 3rd June 2015 and report to your designated police station between 10am and 1pm on 7th June. You can collect your passport on 8th June 2015, but you must hand it in on the 9th or 10th June 2015 for the next control period, and cannot collect until 15th June 2015.
If you do not see the football officer when you hand in your passport or you report, always make sure you get a receipt to say that you have attended, even if it is just a handwritten note signed by the officer you have spoken to, and the time and date.



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