The violent scenes that took place at the final of Euro 2020 between England and Italy at Wembley Stadium resulted in the Football Association conducting a review to understand the disorder.
The review by Baroness Casey highlighted several factors that contributed to the disorder. Of course, the principal reason was those ticketless, alcohol and drugged-fueled “fans” who caused the shameful scenes.
With an amendment to the legislation that governs football-related cases (the Football Spectators Act 1989) and a new policy agreement between the Police and the Crown Prosecution Service, the criminal courts are now being asked to make Football Banning Orders (FBO) for the possession of Class A drugs at football matches.
Any offence that is classed as football-related and takes place on or after 29th June 2022, the court will impose an FBO unless the court “considers that there are particular circumstances relating to the offence or to the offender which would make it unjust in all the circumstances to do so”.
This is different to the old test for FBOs, with the court needing to be “satisfied that there are reasonable grounds to believe that making a banning order would help to prevent violence or disorder at or in connection with any regulated football matches”.
Of course, if the offence was committed before the 29th of June 2022, then the test relating to violence will remain relevant. It is imperative that your legal team recognise the difference. If you have been sentenced for an offence committed under the old sentencing regime, but the court applied the wrong test, you may have grounds to appeal.
The court now needs to be persuaded not to impose an FBO, whereas previously, it was necessary for the court to establish a need for the FBO to prevent violence. It is a significant change and will result in many more FBOs being imposed.
Two recent privately funded cases that Stephen Halloran of Lawton’s London office dealt with have highlighted the more considered approach that is required to prevent a Football Banning Order from being made.
Our clients were of previous good character; arrested at the respective grounds (the London Stadium and Stamford Bridge); found to be in possession of cocaine (a Class A Drug) and not involved in any other disturbance or incident. But, as they had a Class A drug in their possession, they were both charged (ordinarily, a caution would have sufficed) and put on notice that the Metropolitan Police would be applying for a Football Banning Order as part of the sentence.
An FBO would have had a significant impact on both clients. This would include a minimum three-year ban from attending any football match; having to notify the Police of any change in their address; a restriction on movement when football matches were being played; potentially surrendering passports and reporting to the police for games being played abroad.
The prosecution invited the respective courts (Stratford Magistrates Court and Westminster Magistrates Court) to impose a Football Banning Order. As a result of the preparatory work by Stephen, both Courts were persuaded that it would be unjust to make a Football Banning Order. In providing a review of our services, one client said:
“I found myself in trouble for the first time in my life, and I felt as though I had nobody who understood my situation until I found Lawtons Solicitors. I suddenly felt I had somebody fighting my corner, especially Stephen Halloran – he was very professional and made me feel at ease with the whole situation. I will forever be grateful to him for the job he did representing me”.
We recognise the impact that a Football Banning Order will have on a true football fan, and using our extensive experience in dealing with such cases, we can provide the best possible representation to avoid such an outcome.
Please contact Stephen Halloran to discuss your case and funding options. Subject to funding, we can offer a nationwide service for football-related cases and Football Banning Orders.