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Concerns over treatment of jailed England fan

This is a story from the FSF archive – the FSF and SD merged to become the FSA in 2019.

An England fan arrested in Marseille has been given a custodial sentence by the French authorities despite the minor nature of his misdemeanour.

20-year-old Alex Booth from Huddersfield was arrested before the England vs Russia game on Saturday 11th June – for tossing a plastic beer glass up into the air. French police identified and arrested him before the match at Stade Velodrome. Ever since his arrest, he and his family have been repeatedly misled by French police and had no effective legal representation.

While in custody he’s been denied visits from his family, who have tried in vain to get a clean change of clothes to him – he’s still wearing the England shirt he was arrested in, nearly three weeks ago.

Following his arrest, French police misled his father and uncle, assuring them that Alex would be released imminently but this would always be pushed back with Alex receiving no useful legal advice and unaware of what he was being charged with. 

Rachael Loftus from our Fans’ Embassy team said: “His dad and uncle were told ‘he’ll be released soon’, then ‘he’ll be released before midnight’ which turned into ‘he’s being held overnight’. They weren’t allowed to see him or even pass on a change of clothes.”

French police convinced Alex to “confess” to his crime, despite having no sound legal advice or basic grasp of what he was “confessing” to, and he was hauled up before the courts where he was given a two-month prison sentence by the presiding judge – all the while still in his days-old England shirt.

“The custodial sentence came as a massive shock ,” Rachael said. “He hasn’t been involved in any violent behaviour or football-related violence before.

“If it wasn’t for the fact that he’s a football fan, he would not have been given a custodial sentence.

“The fact that he was in court in an England shirt was used against him. It was a deliberate strategy to paint him as a football hooligan. He was on holiday with his Dad and uncle, camping outside Marseille, he wasn’t tooled up looking for trouble.”

The British Embassy had not been able to get a clean set of clothes to Alex either despite having been given access to him. Alex now shares a cell with four other England fans. also caught up in the trouble in Marseille, and is allowed out for only 30 minutes a day.

An independent lawyer that our fans’ embassy team spoke to told us that Alex could not have possibly offered an effective defence. He also advised the family that the appeal process could take more than three months, longer than the actual sentence – so the family decided to cut their losses and not appeal.

“The French police were caught off guard by the level of violence dealt out by the Russians and the trouble in Marseille,” Rachael added. “They had to be seen to be acting and Alex was caught up in that.”

If you get in trouble abroad always insist getting legal advice. For England fans, our fans’ embassy team will be on hand to assist in whatever way possible – their 24-hour helpline is 07956121314.

Thanks to VDM For the image used in this article.

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