Sussex Police say they have learned lessons and taken action against senior officers following complaints from Crystal Palace fans who travelled to Brighton in November 2017.
With the help of the FSA Crystal Palace fans, led by the Crystal Palace Supporters’ Trust and the Five Year Plan fanzine, lodged an official complaint against Sussex Police following their treatment.
Instructing specialist solicitors to act on their behalf – Crystal Palace Supporters’ Trust (CPST) argued that Palace fans who had caused no trouble were subject to “extremely coercive policing”.
Palace fans said that the events at the fixture in November 2017, which included blanket ‘kettling’ and forced escorting of Palace fans, significantly damaged supporters’ trust and confidence in Sussex Police.
Now an investigation into Sussex Police’s handling of the fixture has upheld a number of complaints supporters made against the force.
Supporters were particularly critical of Supt Simon Nelson’s claim on Twitter about the intent of Palace fans to smuggle knives and knuckle dusters into the Amex Stadium.
Sussex Police and Supt Nelson subsequently apologised for the tweet which the investigation said “was not a true and accurate reflection of events”.
CPST said: “While many complaints have not been supported by the investigation, five have been upheld on an ‘organisational basis’ and are subject to ‘organisational learning.’
“Two complaints in relation to media releases have been upheld and Supt Nelson and an Inspector have been made the subject of ‘management action’.”
Sussex Police’s investigation into it’s handling of the fixture did not uphold the majority of the complaints made against its matchday officers.
However, it did acknowledge that its communication with supporters, particularly those being kettled was poor – and recommend the use of megaphones to communicate with crowds in future.
CPST said that the findings in the report highlighted the poor treatment of Palace fans on that day and justified the action it had taken, with the support of the FSA, to hold Sussex Police to account.
“The trust hopes lessons will be learnt by Sussex Police from events that night,” said CPST.
CPST’s letter to Sussex Police’s Head of Professional Standards was submitted by ITN solicitors, who have represented supporters previously in actions against the police.
The FSA also provided financial and practical support throughout this process.
Lochlinn Parker, who acted on behalf of the Palace fans, said: “In upholding a number of complaints, Sussex Police has accepted that they did not plan properly for the match.
“They have also implicitly accepted, by the need for a comprehensive review, that the operation as a whole was a failure.
“Furthermore, the fact that the Match Commander and an Inspector have been subject to a misconduct sanction as a result of their actions is an indictment of the leadership available to Sussex Police.
“It was only through fans coming forward to complaint and persevering that this outcome has been achieved. They are to be congratulated for their efforts.”