Liverpool FC supporters’ union ‘Spirit of Shankly’ has successfully lodged a complaint against Durham Police after they prevented coaches stopping on the way back from an away game in Sunderland.
The complaint was filed against the north eastern police constabulary after they escorted Liverpool fans back to Merseyside after their 2-0 away win on 20th March 2011.
Many of the coaches had planned stops in Hetton-Le-Hole to visit a memorial built in the memory of former manager, Bob Paisley, but were unable to do so because of the escort.
Roy Bentham, Spirit of Shankly’s Travel Officer told JMU Journalism that he believes this is a landmark ruling: “It could potentially affect how police escorts are carried out for future matches.
“It’s only through cases like this can we change some of the authoritarian endemic mindsets from previous generations within policing at football matches.”
Spirit of Shankly has worked closely alongside the Football Supporters’ Federation to bring the complaint forward for what they both consider an infringement of the fans’ human rights.
Amanda Jacks, a case worker for the FSF told JMU Journalism that the organisation is now optimistic for a compensation settlement: “ Durham Police have conceded via their response to the complaint that they had no power to block off the coaches.”
She went on to say it is a victory for the improvement of treatment of football supporters: “ It highlights the importance of not just putting up with treatment you may think is excessive.
“Of course not every complaint will be successful and more often than not there will be a good reason for the policing operation on a match day but I’d urge any fan who isn’t happy to get in touch with us for a preliminary chat.
“We hope that the police will think twice before providing an escort that is obviously disproportionate and unnecessary. Unless there is an imminent threat, then football fans are entitled to and should have freedom of movement.”
In response to the complaint Durham Police told JMU Journalism: “ Durham Constabulary had no involvement in restricting the movement of coaches or preventing them from accessing the Bob Paisley memorial in Hetton.
“Our policing operation was carried out in response to local motorway services in the Durham Constabulary police area who had requested police assistance after disorder and criminal offences on their premises linked to travelling Premiership football fans.”
“The intention of the police operation was to encourage coaches not to stop in these areas where they were not permitted by the proprietors.”
A complaint was also filed against Northumbria Police department but was not upheld.