Policing at football matches

The Police’s role is to prevent and detect crime among fans. This will include travel to and from matches and inside the ground itself. They should have no role in causing crime.

They have a duty to minimise disruption to local residents which will include bus and railway stations, car parks, city and town centres and the areas around grounds. This is generally “interpreted” liberally.

What are the police allowed to do

The police are allowed to stop and search in various circumstances:

  • The police can stop anyone in a public place and search them, their clothing and anything they have with them, such as a bag.
  • If you are in or near to a vehicle, the police can search this.
  • Should the police decide there is anything suspicious then they may caution / arrest you.

In cases of stop and search the police must have “reasonable grounds” to suspect you may be involved in criminal behaviour. Despite their best efforts, this would not include attending a football match in itself.

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The police DO NOT need “reasonable grounds” if you are stopped in relation to an offence of terrorism,  or where attempting to stop a violent incident – e.g. should you approach a fight outside the ground (by running towards, or urging others to) then you can be searched based on the view that you looked like you might be involved in a violent incident – the search could be for weapons.

What you are entitled to if stopped and searched

If you are stopped and searched, the police must:

  • Act responsibly in preserving your dignity and minimising embarrassment.
  • Treat you fairly and courteously at all times.
  • Not discriminate against you when exercising their powers.

If  you are stopped and searched by the police in a public place:

  • You do not have to remove anything more than your coat, jacket or gloves;
  • If you are suspected of any weapons offence, the officers can ask you to remove head wear;
  • If you are told to remove any further clothing, or any material or garment worn for religious reasons, they must take you somewhere appropriate (i.e. private) in order to complete their search. This can be a police station, but that station needs to be near to where you were stopped.

The police cannot require you to give them your name. In order to be within their rights, they need justification for the request.

After being stopped, if they decide to arrest you then they should take you to a police station or let you leave and tell you that they will post any summons to you. If they have decided to arrest you then they will request your name and address, and if you don’t cooperate then invariably they will arrest you and take you to a police station.

Where you are asked for your details, you can ask why these are required. You need only comply if the officer states they have cause to arrest you. If they are not going to arrest you, then you do not have to answer.

The police have to take reasonable steps to make you aware of your rights when they are arresting you – this is the case even if you do not speak English.

The police cannot insist that they are allowed to take your photograph. If they take a photograph then they can retain for seven years. You are entitled to cover your face or turn away.

If you cover your face they can ask you to remove anything obscuring your identity. Masks or balaclavas, hats or bandanas are all covered if obscuring your identity. They still do not have the right to take your photograph without your permission.

The police have no legal power to search wallets, purses, inside small pockets etc. As their search can only be for weapons (which cannot be secreted generally in the smaller places mentioned), you can refuse outright.

What the police have to before a search

  • Explain why you’ve been stopped and the purpose of the search;
  • Tell you under what power they are stopping you for the search – this would generally under one of three powers:
    • Reasonable suspicion that you are involved in criminal activity (s.1 Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984, as amended);
    • Reasonable suspicion of weapons offences (s.60 Criminal Justice and Police Act 2001);
    • Reasonable suspicion of involvement in terrorism Act 2000);
  • Identify themselves sufficiently by telling you their names, the station they come from and either show you their warrant cards (if in plain clothes) or tell you their warrant numbers;
  • Seek your co-operation in carrying out the search, but note they can use reasonable force if you refuse to co-operate.

When the search has been completed, the officers must inform you that you are entitled to a copy of the search record that they have created.

What the police have to do if they arrest you

If the police hold a valid warrant then they can arrest you. A warrant is issued by a court indicating that you should be arrested. This is usually unlikely but could cover instances where you are recognised at a game and have a warrant outstanding for an alleged previous offence.

Where there is no warrant then they can arrest you in the following circumstances:

  • You are in the act of committing or attempting to commit an offence;
  • They have reasonable grounds for suspecting you are committing an offence;
  • They have reasonable grounds for suspecting you have committed or attempted to commit an offence;
  • You are about to commit an offence;
  • They have reasonable grounds for suspecting you are about to commit an offence;

The police can only arrest where they believe an arrest is necessary. When exercising this judgement an arrest is deemed necessary:

  • To enable the police to ascertain your name (where your name is not known and cannot be readily ascertained, or where the police have reasonable grounds to believe you have given a false name);
  • Where you have not given a satisfactory address. This means an address where the police can serve a summons;
  • To prevent you causing physical injury to yourself or others, suffering physical injury, causing loss or damage to property, committing an offence against public decency, or causing an unlawful obstruction of the highway;
  • To protect a child or other vulnerable person from you;
  • To allow the prompt and effective investigation of the offence or your conduct;
  • A breach of the peace is committed in their presence;
  • The person effecting the arrest reasonably believes that such a breach will be committed in the immediate future by the person arrested, a breach of the peace has been committed or the person effecting the arrest reasonably believes that a breach of the peace has occurred and that a further breach is threatened.

The definition of a breach of the peace is that it occurs whenever harm is actually done or is likely to be done to a person or, in their presence, to their property, or where a person is in fear of being harmed through an assault, affray, riot, unlawful assembly or other disturbance.

Your rights in you’re arrested

As soon as practical after you have been arrested you must be told, in simple, non-technical language that you understand, the legal and factual grounds for the arrest. You can ask for this to be better explained to you if you do not understand.

Again, as soon as practicable, you must also be cautioned upon arrest or as soon as is practicable afterwards unless it is impracticable to do so because of your “condition” (usually alcohol) or “behaviour” (or lack of it) at the time, or you have already been cautioned immediately before arrest.

The caution

“You do not have to say anything. But it may harm your defence if you do not mention when questioned something which you later rely on in court. Anything you do say may be given in evidence.”

Different rules for “designated matches”

The definition of a designated match is an Association Football match in which one or both of the participating teams represents a club which is for the time being a member (whether a full or associate member) of the Football League, the Football Association Premier League, the Football Conference or the League of Wales, or represents a country or territory.

In the case of designated matches the police have powers of arrest for any offences or display of certain behaviour at a designated match.

There is a time limit in relation to these games – it begins two hours before a match or two hours before the advertised start time (if earlier) and runs until one hour after the game. If the game is cancelled or postponed it ends one hour after the advertised start time.

What happens at the station

Once you have been taken to the station the custody officer should identify themselves to you as the custody officer.

The custody officer is obliged to catalogue everything you have with you when you arrive at the station after having been arrested. In order to do this, you may be searched if the custody officer considers it necessary in order to ascertain what property you have, but only to the extent that he considers it necessary for that purpose.

The custody officer may seize and retain anything you have in your possession, except for clothes and personal effects. These may be seized only if the custody officer believes you may use them to cause physical injury to yourself or another, or to damage property, or to interfere with evidence, or to escape, or if the custody officer has reasonable grounds for believing that they may be evidence relating to an offence.

If something is taken from you then you should be told the reason for the seizure unless you are either violent or likely to become so, or you are incapable of understanding what is being said to you, or you are in urgent need of medical attention.

Usually if you are going to be detained for any length of time they will take everything from you.

Kit off

If the police consider a full strip search is necessary then it can only be conducted for the reasons above, or where the custody officer thinks it necessary in order to remove an article which you would not be allowed to keep and the custody officer reasonably considers that you may have “concealed” such an article.

Strip searches can only be carried out only by an officer of the same sex as you.

Snapping rubber gloves…

The police can only conduct an intimate search if an officer at the rank of inspector or above authorises such a search.

That officer must have reasonable grounds for believing that you have concealed on you an article which you could use to cause physical injury to yourself or others, and which you might use while you are in custody.

The officer must have reasonable grounds for believing that the article in question cannot be found unless you are intimately searched. The reasons why an intimate search is considered necessary must be explained to you before the gloves come out.

Generally the intimate search should be carried out by a suitably qualified person. They can only be carried out at a police station, a hospital, surgery or other medical premises.

Your rights while in police custody

A person who has been arrested (whether or not for an offence) and who is being held in custody at a police station or other premises has a right, at his request, to have one friend, or relative or other person who is known to him or who is likely to take an interest in his welfare, told of his arrest and the place where he is being detained.

The custody officer must inform the suspect of this right and ask him whether he wishes to exercise it.

If that person cannot be contacted, the detainee may choose up to two alternatives. If they too cannot be contacted, the custody officer or the person in charge of the investigation has discretion to allow further attempts until the information has been conveyed.

It is not a right that you are allowed to make the contact yourself – the “one phone call” from American films does not apply.

The brief

If you are arrested (whether or not for an offence) and held in custody at a police station or other premises you have a right to consult a solicitor privately at any time.

You should be told about this right to free independent legal advice:

  • When you are brought to a police station under arrest, or when you are arrested having initially attended voluntarily;
  • Immediately before the beginning or recommencement of any interview at a police station or other authorised place of detention;
  • After charge or being informed that you may be prosecuted;
  • Where a police officer wishes to bring to your attention any statement or the content of any interview, or where you are being re-interviewed;
  • Before you are interviewed after being charged;
  • Before an identification parade or group or video identification is conducted.

Minors and those under a disability

A minor or someone with a disability must not be interviewed by the police or asked to provide a written statement in the absence of what is called an “appropriate adult”, unless delay would be likely to lead to interference with or harm to evidence connected with an offence, interference with our physical harm to other people or serious loss of or damage to property, to alerting other suspects not yet arrested, or to hindering the recovery of property obtained in consequence of commission of the offence.

If an interview at a police station is necessary for one or more of these reasons, it must be authorised by an officer of the rank of superintendent or above.

The clink

Generally the normal period you can be detained without charge is 24 hours from the time you are first brought to a Police station or 24 hours after being arrested, whichever is the earlier. Unless the period of detention is extended (see below), if at the end of that time you have not been charged, you must be released, either with or without bail.

You can be detained longer without charge if you are under arrest for an indictable offence (“indictable” generally means more serious), for up to a total of 36 hours from the relevant time by an officer of the rank of superintendent or above making the decision to do so, or for up to a total of 96 hours from the relevant time by a magistrates’ court making an order usually after the Police have applied for an extension.

Banning orders

You can be banned when you are found guilty of:

  • Breaches of a requirement imposed by an earlier banning order;
  • Committing an offence for bringing prohibited articles (alcohol, containers and fireworks, firearms) into a ground or while entering or trying to enter the ground;
  • Being found to be under the influence of alcohol in the football stadium or while entering or trying to enter the ground;
  • Committing any offence under the Football (Offences) Act 1991 (throwing missiles, chanting of indecent or racist nature and entering the playing area).
  • Committing offences of violence (particularly offences under the Public Order Act 1986) to another person or property when the violence is related to a football match.

You need to be aware of the scale of this, however – it is arguable you could be caught by this by being in another city the night before (or day after) attending a game – and an offence will still be considered as related to a football match:

  • In the case of a match which takes place on the day on which it is advertised to take place, the period – beginning 24 hours before whichever is the earlier of the start of the match and the time at which it was advertised to start; and ending 24 hours after it ends;
  • In the case of a match which does not take place on the day on which it was advertised to take place, the period – beginning 24 hours before the time at which it was advertised to start on that day; and ending 24 hours after that time.

Football banning orders can be made on conviction for an offence or as a result of an application based on past conduct; the past conduct does not have to have resulted in a criminal conviction.

In order for a banning order to be granted the judge has to be satisfied that there are reasonable grounds to believe that making a banning order would help to prevent violence or disorder at, or in connection with, any regulated football matches. If the judge considers that violence or disorder is likely then they must make a banning order.

If you are found guilty of an offence and get a term of imprisonment then the maximum length a banning order can be made for is 10 years and the minimum is 6 years. In other circumstances the maximum length is 5 years and the minimum is 3 years.

If you have served at least two thirds of your banning order then you can apply to the court where it was made to terminate it.

This should not be construed as legal advice from the Spirit of Shankly Union.