With the football season upon us, the police and courts are once again looking to deal with football-related offences by way of a Football Banning Order (FBO), in addition to any other penalty.
The approach to Football Banning Orders has changed due to the Euro 2020 final between England & Italy at Wembley Stadium. Baroness Casey conducted an FA-commissioned review of the disorder, which highlighted several different factors that contributed to the violence that flared. One of the recommendations was to enforce a much tougher approach to individuals found guilty of football-related offences.
This led to a change in the legislation (Football Spectators Act 1989), which deals with the imposition of Football Banning Orders and increased the scope of offences that will now result in an application and make it more likely that the Court will impose an FBO.
For offences committed before 29 June 2022, the test applied by the Court was whether it was “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”.
For any football-related offence on or after 29th June 2022, the new test makes a presumption that an FBO will be imposed 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”.
The legislative changes and a new policy agreement between the police and CPS now mean that in all football-related cases, whether they involve violence or not, an application for an FBO will be made. The Court no longer need to be satisfied that an FBO will “prevent violence”.
Indeed, the number of FBOs made will increase. In fact, the number of arrests in the last football season was at their highest level for 10 years.
Two recent case examples that the author has dealt with (and successfully opposed) are illustrative of the new approach. In both cases, these offences are related to the possession of Class A drugs at a football match. There was also no suggestion that the respective individuals were involved in violence, and in both cases, an application for an FBO was made.
As a result of our preparatory work and the approach adopted, both Westminster Magistrates Court and Stratford Magistrates Court found that it would be unjust in all the circumstances to make a Football Banning Order.
The impact of an FBO is that even if the penalty imposed for the offence is minimal (a fine or conditional discharge), an FBO will last for a minimum of three years. More serious offences, for example, a conviction for violent disorder, the longer the term of the order, and they can be imposed for up to 10 years.
A Football Banning Order will not just mean that you cannot attend any football match, but it also has the potential to require the surrender of your passport and/or to report to your local police station during the period when a match is played abroad – whether that be an international or club match. The restriction on travel is significant and at the discretion of the local police. You will also be required to notify the local police if you change your address.
You can appeal the making of a Football Banning Order to either the Crown Court or the Court of Appeal. Time limits apply to appealing either 21 or 28 days, depending on which appeal route is to be used.
It is also possible to apply for the early revocation of a Football Banning Order. Such an application can be made to the court that imposed the original Order after 2/3rds of the term of the FBO has lapsed. Up-to-date information will be required, and conduct since the order was made will be a factor in the decision from the relevant Dedicated Football Officer attached to each area/club.
Any conviction related to a designated football match can have far-reaching and significant consequences. Expert legal advice is also essential so that you can understand the implications of a conviction and the related orders.
Stephen Halloran of Lawtons Solicitors London office has a significant level of experience in dealing with football-related criminal cases, having secured not guilty pleas in football violence cases, opposed the imposition of FBOs that relate to violent offences (Violent Disorder) and also possession of Class A drugs at a football ground.
Stephen also has successfully terminated Football Banning Orders early and understands the considered approach required to succeed in these applications. Need to know more about the new Football Banning Order? Contact us today and let our experts guide you through the rest.