Nobody expects to attend a football match and still be dealing with the ramifications over four years later. But this is exactly what happened to Mark Wynn a 48-year-old, lifelong Coventry City fan.
Back in September 2011 Mark, together with his then 14-year-old son, attended a home game at the Ricoh Arena versus Derby County.
At that time, Coventry fans were deeply unhappy at what was happening at the club and during the game, fans were protesting against their owners. Mark (in a white t-shirt) was not involved in the protest but felt fellow supporters that were, were being dealt with in a heavy handed way.
Noticing that one of the officers, a PC Allsop, was not wearing his shoulder ID numbers, Mark asked him why. Events that followed were caught on film.
Mark was arrested and taken to holding cells beneath the stadium. Once there, events took a turn for the worse. Mark explains what happened in his own words.
“This all started when PC Allsop first came over to me and I asked him why he wasn’t wearing his ID numbers and told him I was considering making a formal complaint since I knew he was in breach of guidelines.
“In response PC Allsop called me a ‘smart arse’ together with a torrent of abuse and then left me alone.
“I then called up another officer, assuming him to be a commanding officer but he could not provide me with an answer. He then turned against me and alleged I was drunk, which I wasn’t.
“My protestations were ignored and you can see what happened next in the footage.
“Once in the holding area, having already been put in an illegal choke hold, I was tripped, taken to the floor, secured in handcuffs and then dragged to a cell.
“I overheard PC Allsop asking the custody officer whether or not the video camera in the cell was working. The custody officer replied it was not.
“PC Allsop then entered my cell and threw me to the floor. He struck me three times in the face and head with his knee – I was still handcuffed with my hands beneath my back.
“PC X pulled PC Allsop away and tried to stop the attack. He placed me on a bench within the cell. PC Allsop made towards me again, told me I was resisting arrest and hit me twice on my head. The handcuffs were removed, PC Allsop left the cell locking the door behind him.” [Editor’s note – PC X’s name has been withheld to protect his identity – he was the officer who pursued this complaint against Allsop]
“In the meantime, my son had followed me own towards the holding area and tried to speak to me but the police just questioned him about his presence there. I attempted to interject saying his mother should be called or he should, given his age, be escorted home.
“I was ignored and my son thrown out of the stadium. However, he made his way back in at half time and again attempted to find out what was happening but to no avail. He then had to make his own way home.
“Sometime later I was taken to a police station. I complained about my treatment and a doctor was called and photographs of my injuries taken.
“I was charged with a public order offence (Section 5), given bail conditions preventing me from attending any football match and released at 2.00am.
Once the case came to court, I represented myself (I would advise that nobody should do this, rather call the FSF for advice and referral to Melanie Cooke). I was found guilty, fined £275 (including costs) and given a banning order.
“The banning order not only meant I couldn’t take my son to football or my brother for whom I acted as a carer. Due to the particularly draconian terms, this effectively meant I was a prisoner in my own home on a match day. I protested against the terms in court but unsuccessfully.
“After the hearing I tried to get the conditions overturned but was unable to. However, after going to the Coventry Telegraph and getting publicity, two police officers visited my home late one evening and told me a court hearing was arranged for the following day.
“It was only then I managed to get the terms of my ban amended meaning I could leave my home on a match day but the overall ban remained in place.”
Challenging the conviction
Realising he had to try and challenge both his conviction, and the football banning order in addition to the assault at the hands of the police, Mark contacted the FSF for help.
In turn, we referred him to specialist football solicitor, Melanie Cooke (who has since set up Football Law Associates).
Melanie agreed to represent Mark and lodged an appeal against his conviction. Part of preparing for an appeal hearing involves making requests for information about the case and the officers and the information was not forthcoming, causing a delay of the hearing date.
During this delay, and unknown to the legal team, other events were taking place which eventually resulted in the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) quietly confirming they would not oppose the appeal (more on this below).
At the Crown Court, the prosecutor told the Judge that information had come to the Crown’s attention which had led to a review at a senior level but gave no information on what that was.
Judge Coates responded: “We don’t live in that sort of society now. He (Mark) needs to be told. I believe he should be told, or at least told ‘we’re not telling you’ and advised that the CPS should write to Mark.”
To this date, Mark has received no letter from the CPS with any explanation.
This led to the conviction being overturned in the Crown Court, and of course the football banning order was overturned with it.
Now he’d successfully appealed, Mark could turn his attention to taking civil action against West Midlands Police for his treatment at the police station.
Melanie advised Mark to speak with Lochlinn Parker, then of Deighton Peirce Glynn, but now with ITN Solicitors. Lochlinn explains his role in securing justice for Mark and a substantial five figure financial award to compensate him for his experiences.
“Cases against the police are difficult because it is often the client’s word against the officer’s,” Lochlinn said.
“In this case we had the CCTV footage which showed the actions in the stands but it was what happened in the holding cell which was the most shocking and there was no footage from there.
“We had to find a way to prove what had happened to Mark and given that the CPS had thrown in the towel we had an inkling that there was some evidence to be found.
“It turned out that a fellow officer, PC X, so appalled with the conduct of PC Allsop, had written a long statement about what happened and submitted it to senior officers the day after the incident.
“It has been of concern throughout this case that the fact of this statement was not passed on to the CPS for the original criminal case, that Mark was prosecuted despite the fact the statement fatally undermined PC Allsop’s credibility, and that had Mark not made a complaint while in custody it is unlikely PC Allsop would ever have been brought to book for what he did.
“There has never been a satisfactory answer from West Midlands Police about why this, or many other concerning aspects of Mark’s case, happened.
“Due to failings in the way the police handled the complaint, including telling PC Allsop that proceedings against him for the assault would be ended, the officer was only put before a misconduct ‘meeting’.
“The most severe sanction from a ‘meeting’ is a final written warning.
“He could never have been sacked despite being found to have kneed Mark in the face three times while he was handcuffed face down on the ground and despite PC X clearly saying there was no justification whatsoever for the assault.
“The officer had been found to have viciously assaulted Mark but because the police did not investigate their officer for such a long time they could not consider whether criminal charges should have been brought.
“PC Allsop’s ‘final’ written warning lasted for 18 months. Unless he has been found to have committed further misconduct since then, this warning will have now expired.
“West Midlands Police has never publically admitted what happened and have failed (despite numerous requests) to update the record of officer misconduct on their website.
“Once PC Allsop was found to have assaulted Mark, the civil claim for compensation was always a foregone conclusion but yet West Midlands Police still fought a number of aspects of the case, refused to provide answers to serious concerns including why PC Allsop was not investigated earlier and only apologised to Mark after we insisted on it.
“Mark’s case finally settled in October 2015 – four years, two criminal cases, a lengthy complaint process and a civil claim, after the incident.
“Police forces always refer to the ‘one bad apple’ theory when referring to officer misconduct but in a case like this where Mark had to constantly pursue West Midlands Police to make sure they would effectively investigate their officer for such shocking and gratuitous violence, and to apologise for it, you have to wonder whether it is one bad apple or a rotten system that encourages officers to think they can get away with it.”
Don’t go it alone
So, there you have it. The shocking story of how one day out at the football eventually concluded over four years later.
You will, no doubt, agree that Mark’s story makes for concerning and troubling reading. While he’s not the first supporter to successfully make a claim against the police for personal injury at their hands, he is one of a very few.
Nonetheless, Mark’s account should remind supporters that they don’t have to (indeed shouldn’t) ‘go it alone’ and represent themselves in court and that we are here to help, supported by the services of Melanie, Lochlinn and others in the legal profession.
The final word belongs to Mark who says that the experience has taught him that there are good and bad police officers and that without the integrity shown by PC X the outcome may well have been very different for him.
“It’s all about making the victim look bad,” Mark said. “The police will try and cover up their wrong doing and for them it’s about damage limitation.
“The police will never learn until they become open and transparent.
“I would like to place on record my thanks and gratitude to my fellow Coventry fans who came forward to give statements and for the help offered by Amanda Jacks but in particularly the superb representation given by both Melanie Cooke and Lochlinn Parker who both went well beyond the call of duty and my MP, Bob Ainsworth.”
We asked West Midlands Police to respond to many of the criticisms in this article, their response is below:
Chief Inspector Brian Carmichael from West Midlands Police’s Professional Standards Department, said: “An internal investigation was launched following the complaint and the officer in question appeared before a misconduct panel where he received a final written warning.
“An out-of-court financial settlement was later agreed with Mr Wynn.”
Watching Football Is Not A Crime! is part of the FSF’s ongoing drive to monitor the police in their dealings with football fans and work with them to ensure that all fans are treated fairly and within the law. You can contact FSF Caseworker Amanda Jacks via: