Stoke City fan Lyndon Edwards, 38, has been awarded £2,750 in compensation following unlawful police action in Manchester last year. Greater Manchester Police (GMP) used section 27 of the Violent Crime Reduction Act to round up more than 80 Stoke City fans prior to their club’s Premier League tie with Manchester United at Old Trafford on Saturday, November 15, 2008.
Even though Stoke’s fans had been well-behaved – the pub landlord made no complaints and has since invited them back – supporters were detained for up to four hours and forcibly transported by the police back to Stoke-on-Trent on coaches, missing the game.
Deprived of toilet facilities on the coach, Lyndon and his fellow supporters were instructed to urinate into cups, which spilled over the floor of the bus so that they had to sit with urine sloshing around their feet for the 40-mile journey back.
Stoke City fan Lyndon contacted the FSF to complain about his appalling treatment at the hands of the GMP.
As more and more cases of the police unfairly using section 27 came to light the FSF launched the Watching football is not a crime! campaign and teamed up with civil-rights organisation Liberty and took GMP’s use of section 27 to judicial review. GMP have conceded that the legislation was never intended to be used on large groups of people.
Its original purpose was to target individuals or small groups displaying drunken behaviour – something the police showed no evidence for in this case.
“I am very pleased that the GMP has conceded they were in the wrong and satisfied with the compensation awarded. Hopefully the forthcoming judicial review will have a positive outcome for football supporters too and prevent section 27 from being used in this manner again,” said Lyndon. “I would like to take this opportunity to thank the FSF and Liberty for all of their hard work and support which has been absolutely vital to a satisfactory outcome.”
The case has huge implications for all football supporters across England and Wales. The FSF had heard of an increasing number of police forces using this illegal tactic to effectively impose football banning orders at will across entire counties.
In a remarkably similar case South Yorkshire Police has also agreed to compensate Plymouth Argyle fans unjustly served section 27 orders following their team’s visit to Doncaster Rovers on Saturday, 6 December, 2008. The level of compensation is still being negotiated.
Malcolm Clarke, chair of the FSF, said: “We are delighted that as a result of the FSF and Liberty Stoke fans who suffered this appalling treatment are now receiving financial compensation. Police need to think very carefully in future before ever using this legislation inappropriately on football supporters ever again.
“This is an important victory for football fans everywhere – not just those at Stoke City. We were of hearing more and more similar cases from fans across the country but since Lyndon’s case went to court these seem to have stopped.”
“I’d also like to thank Stoke City who offered to underwrite £20,000 of Lyndon’s legal costs, great credit should go to both Tony Scholes and Peter Coates at Stoke.”
The success of this case shows that football fans do not have to accept whatever unfair treatment is dished out – supporters can make their voices heard.
James Welch, legal director at Liberty, said: “This is yet another example of overly broad powers being used inappropriately. If you give the police powers that are not tightly defined, they are going to abuse them.
“Congratulations to the FSF for raising this important issue.”