10 Bristol City supporters who are not considered a risk or involved in football related disorder were surrounded and threatened with force including the use of police dogs, publicly accused of being hooligans by an inspector using a megaphone, detained for over 90 minutes and put back on a train home without being allowed to attend the game they had come to watch. They had all travelled to the game independently, didn’t all know each other and had tickets for the match.
All this happened in September 2015 before the match at Birmingham City. Eight out of the ten were issued with dispersal notices pursuant to Section 35 of the Anti-Social Behaviour, Crime & Disorder Act 2014 by West Midlands Police. All 10 are claiming false imprisonment and a breach of Article 5 of the European Convention of Human Rights. Court proceedings, backed by The Bristol City Supporters Club & Trust, were served last week on West Midlands Police who have to date denied that they acted unlawfully. What West Midlands Police failed to realise is that:
- There was no reason to suspect that any of these supporters had caused or were likely to cause disorder. It is not suspicious to meet up with friends, go for a pre-match pint and walk to a football match.
- A Section 35 notice can only be applied following an individual risk assessment, not applied carte blanche to a whole group of supporters
- A dispersal notice simply compels someone to leave a defined area, it does not give the police the right to detain them and escort them to a train station
- Some of those detained and returned home weren’t given the required notices
The impact of these actions is summed up acutely by one of those affected: “up until this game I had seen every match that Bristol City had played, home and away for over a year before this episode. Since then my support at away games has dropped right off and I most definitely do not go to any games in Birmingham or the Black Country for fear of encountering the same disgusting treatment by this area’s police force.”
Stu Rogers, Chair of The Supporters Club and Trust explains: “We believe that supporting these 10 fans is fundamentally the role of a pro-active supporters group acting in the best interests of supporters. West Midlands Police appear to have frustrated the process throughout in the hope we would just go away. We won’t. The primary purpose of bringing this action is to ensure that future use of these dispersal powers is not abused by West Midlands Police or any other forces around the country. We also aim to secure compensation for those affected”