Football crazy: action against World Cup hooliganstt

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Related tags: Football hooliganism, Nottingham

Action to combat football hooligans has angered the tradeby David Clifton, one of thePublican.com's legal teamDid you read about the plans to deal...

Action to combat football hooligans has angered the trade

by David Clifton, one of thePublican.com's legal team

Did you read about the plans to deal with English football hooligans at the World Cup in Japan and South Korea this June?

Japan is to mount its biggest ever security operation.

There will be thousands of extra police on the streets, armed with sub-machine-guns. All fans will be body-searched and all bags will be X-rayed. South Korea will be using an elite team of riot police skilled in tae kwon do and judo.

By way of contrast, the Nottingham police abandoned any thoughts of using bullets or martial arts skills on visiting Millwall supporters. However, they did signal their intention to have 270 officers on duty around the city centre, backed up by additional door supervisors at pubs to refuse entry to "undesirables".

The Nottingham police also sought to achieve closure between 10.30am and 6pm of pubs near the ground and those likely to be visited by football fans on the day of the match between Nottingham Forest and Millwall.

The request by police to close pubs was met with anger and dismay by some licensees, as readers of this site will know.

Application was made to the magistrates to achieve the desired closures. Interestingly, the police decided to proceed in this manner rather than invoking their new powers under the Criminal Justice and Police Act, which enables them to serve an immediate closure order where they believe there is likely to be disorder on (or in the vicinity of and related to) licensed premises and closure is necessary in the interests of public safety. As I understand, it was on this new basis that Wolverhampton police made such an order in December.

On the face of it, exercising their new powers might have been thought by the police to have been the easier means of achieving the desired result.

The closure orders could have been served in the morning. In all probability, the match would have been over, all fans would have dispersed and the closure orders could have been withdrawn before the issue could ever have been brought before the court.

Affected licensees would have had little chance of any redress because, under the Act, the police are exempted from any liability to pay compensation unless they have acted in bad faith or in a manner incompatible with Human Rights legislation.

Instead, the police decided to proceed by way of an application for a section 188 order of the Licensing Act 1964. To succeed they had to prove to the magistrates' satisfaction that "a riot or tumult was expected to happen".

According to my dictionary, a "riot" is "a wild disturbance by a crowd of people". A "tumult" is an "uproar". Turning the pages, I read that an "uproar" is a "violent outburst of noise and excitement or anger". I gave up my word-search before finding out whether the definition of "people" included Millwall supporters.

In the end, after a very lengthy hearing, the magistrates decided to impose blanket closure orders for 37 pubs from 10.30am until 4pm which, for many of the individuals involved in this case, turned out to be the worst of all decisions.

No doubt the police will say that an application of this type to the magistrates was fairer than making a closure order under the new Act, since it gave an opportunity for arguments, both for and against, to be put before the court.

However, it opens the door to further such applications being made elsewhere around the country or, possibly, other police forces taking the view that a simple closure order is a more straightforward way of dealing with such a situation.

It also raises the question of whether we can expect the Government to take the view that the public at large needs greater protection by means of some new legislation aimed at separating sport and alcohol even further than the existing Sporting Events Act 1985 achieves.

Chris Holmes of local Nottingham pub operator Tynemill, was quoted as saying: "If the police are expecting trouble, they should call the game off - I'm angry that they have made the assumption that football is more important than anything." I have to say, I think he has a point.

Related topics: Sport

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