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A short guide to the law for football fans
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Section 27 and Football
Like the Criminal Justice Act before it, Section 27 of the Violent Crime Reduction Act 2006 was not specifically aimed at football fans, but is increasingly being used by police against fans.
Designed to prevent potential 'alcohol-related disorder,' the act gives the police powers to move individuals on from a specified area for up 48 hours.
The police serving the order need to have good reason and evidence to support their assertion that you are likely to cause alcohol-related crime or disorder (so just being in a pub is not just cause).
If you're are told to move on from the locality, the police can specify the means and route, although the law fails to define 'locality,' so they could force you to travel a considerable distance.
Note: The police have no powers to make you sign anything. If you feel you've been unfairly dealt with under S27, get the details of the officer concerned and - ideally - get it all on camera, along with the names of any witnesses.
If you want to argue the toss, ask to speak to a senior officer and put your case forward peacefully while complying with the order (i.e. walking away). If you stand your ground you're likely to be arrested and/or fined by the courts.
Campaign against Section 27
In a joint press statement(18.12.08), Liberty and the Football Supporters Federation (FSF) highlighted their concerns about their legislation:
Relying on section 27 of the Violent Crime Reduction Act, the Greater Manchester Police rounded up 80 Stoke City fans who had stopped at a pub on the way to a match at Old Trafford on 15 November.
Although the fans were well-behaved and the pub landlord had no complaints, supporters were detained for up to four hours and transported by the police back to Stoke-on-Trent on coaches, missing the game.
Deprived of toilet facilities on the coach, the 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.
In recent weeks there have been more and more reports of police using section 27 to prevent fans attending football matches with the FSF receiving many first-hand accounts from supporters of clubs across England. The FSF is launching a campaign fund to defend the rights of football fans wrongly served with section 27 orders.
Malcolm Clarke, chair of the FSF, said:
"This legislation was clearly designed to allow the moving on of individuals or small groups misbehaving under the influence of alcohol. It was not designed to enable police to impose football banning orders at will across entire counties."
"Section 27 gives police instant power to walk all over the civil rights of supporters if they happen to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. No evidence appears to be needed, and no crime needs to have been committed." "I would encourage any supporter who has been an unjustified victim of Section 27 to get in touch with the FSF and make their voice heard. We are taking this very, very seriously."
Anna Fairclough, legal officer for Liberty said:
"This is a football-loving country and it's not only wrong, but also seriously counter-productive to treat all fans as hooligans. Liberty is proud to take on this case and intends to use the Human Rights Act to prevent abuses of this kind happening again."
Challenging Section 27
The FSF and civil rights organisation Liberty have teamed up to challenge the use of Section 27 to target innocent football supporters. Check out their campaign site for more info.
» Discuss the issues on our football bulletin board.
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