Harris v Sheffield United Football Club Ltd

JurisdictionEngland & Wales
CourtCourt of Appeal (Civil Division)
JudgeLORD JUSTICE NEILL,LORD JUSTICE BALCOMBE,LORD JUSTICE KERR
Judgment Date19 Mar 1987
Judgment citation (vLex)[1987] EWCA Civ J0319-7
Docket Number87/0382

[1987] EWCA Civ J0319-7

IN THE SUPREME COURT OF JUDICATURE

COURT OF APPEAL (CIVIL DIVISION)

ON APPEAL FROM THE HIGH COURT OF JUSTICE

QUEEN'S BENCH DIVISION

(MR. JUSTICE BOREHAM)

Royal Courts of Justice

Before:

Lord Justice Kerr

Lord Justice Neill

and

Lord Justice Balcombe

87/0382

1983 M No. 2534

Between:
John Charles Harris
(On Behalf Of South Yorkshire Police Authority)
Plaintiff (Respondent)
and
Sheffield United Football Club Limited
Defendant (Appellant)

MR. JOHN GRIFFITHS Q.C. and MR. MALCOLM CHAPPLE (instructed by Messrs. Clegg & Sons, Solicitors, Sheffield SI INE) appeared on behalf of the Defendant (Appellant).

MR. D.R. BENTLEY Q.C. and MR. W.B. PHILLIPS (instructed by Mr. W.K. Irving, Secretary, South Yorkshire Residuary Body, Barnsley, South Yorkshire, S70 2HG) appeared on behalf of the Plaintiff (Respondent).

LORD JUSTICE NEILL
1

This is an appeal from the order of Mr. Justice Boreham dated 26th March 1986.

2

The appeal raises a question as to the responsibility for the cost of providing for the attendance of police officers inside the ground of the Sheffield United Football Club (the club) Bramall Lane in Sheffield on the occasions when League or other important football matches are played at the ground.

3

We have been told that the answer to this question is of some general interest both to police authorities and to other leading football clubs.

4

It is the case for the South Yorkshire Police Authority (the Authority), within whose area the Bramall Lane ground lies, that the attendance of police officers on these occasions constitutes the provision of "special police services" within the meaning of S.15 (1) of the Police Act 1964. (the Act of 1964), and that as the provision of these services has been expressly or impliedly requested by the Club, the Authority is entitled to make charges therefor.

5

It is the case for the Club on the other hand that as the Chief Constable of Sheffield has at all material times been of the opinion that the attendance of police officers on these occasions has been necessary for the maintenance of law and order and to protect life and property, the Club is not liable to make any payment; the police have been merely carrying out their public duty.

6

It is further argued on behalf of the Club that even if it is held that "special police services" were provided at the Club's request before 26th October 1983, after that date the Club has made no request for the provision of any police services beyond those which the police are required to provide in pursuance of their duty to the public.

7

In the action which was instituted by the Authority the sum of £51,699.54p. was claimed as the aggregate of charges for the services of police officers at the Club's ground on various dates between 14th August 1982 and 13th November 1983. The Club disputed liability on the grounds which I have indicated and by way of counterclaim sought a declaration that it was not liable to make any payment to the Authority save where the Club requested the attendance of officers to "fulfill roles other than the police duty".

8

Before the judge the counterclaim also included (inter alia) a claim to recover certain sums paid to the Authority before August 1982, but this matter is no longer pursued and I need say no more about it.

9

The action was tried by Mr. Justice Boreham at Sheffield in February 1986 and in a reserved judgment delivered on 26th March 1986 the judge upheld the claim by the Authority and dismissed the counterclaim.

10

The Club has appealed to this court.

11

I shall come a little later to examine the events which have given rise to the present litigation but I think it is convenient to start by setting the case in its historical perspective and by identifying those matters which are common ground.

12

The claim by the Authority is a claim in contract. It is conceded on behalf of the Authority, however, that if the officers attended merely in order to enable the chief constable to carry out his duty to maintain law and order no charge could or can be made to the Club because any "agreement" to pay would not be supported by consideration.

13

It is conceded by the Club on the other hand that if the attendance of the officers amounted to the provision of "special police services" then, subject to the subsidiary argument as to whether these services were requested after 26th October 1983, the charges are recoverable in accordance with S.15(1) of the Act of 1964.

14

I turn at once therefore to S.l5(l) of the Act of 1964 which provides as follows:

"The chief officer of police of any police force may provide, at the request of any person, special police. services at any premises or in any locality in the police area for which the force is maintained, subject to the payment to the police authority of charges on such scales as may be determined by that authority."

15

The words "special police services" are not defined in the Act of 1964, but it is clear that the section provides statutory authority for a long-established practice whereby police officers have been made available to carry out functions at private premises in return for payment to the relevant police authority. The existence of the practice before 1964 has not been challenged, but nevertheless, as the nature of the services provided in this case is at the core of the dispute, it may be helpful to refer to some of the relevant passages in the authorities and documents to which our attention was drawn.

16

It is sufficient to start with the Police Act 1890. This Act was passed to make provision for (inter alia) the pensions and allowances to be paid to police constables in England and Wales.

17

By s.16 it was provided that every police force should have a pension fund, and by s.l6(1) (e) it was further provided that there should be carried to that fund

"such proportion of any sum received on account of constables whose services had been lent in consideration of payment as the police authority may consider to be a fair contribution to the pension fund in respect of those constables".

18

Viscount Cave, Lord Chancellor, referred to this provision in the Act of 1890 in Glasbrook Bros. Ltd. v. Glamorgan County Council (1925) Appeal Cases 270, where the legality of the payment for police services was challenged. At p280 he said:

"I find it difficult to believe that if the Legislature had considered the practice of lending constables for special duty, which in the year 1890 was a daily occurrence, to be against public policy, it would have provided for the application of payments received in consideration of such lending to pension purposes; and it appears to me that this statutory recognition of the practice in question affords a strong argument in favour of its legality."

19

A little earlier in his speech (at p278) Viscount Cave referred to the practice of "lending" the services of police constables in these terms:

"Instances are the lending of constables on the occasions of large gatherings in and outside private premises, as on the occasion of weddings, athletic or boxing contests or race meetings, and the provision of constables at large railway stations."

20

The practice was also noticed without disapproval by Lord Justice Scrutton in the same case in the Court of Appeal (1924) 1 King's Bench 879, where he said at pp.890–1:

"There is no doubt that for many years police authorities have furnished for payment, at the request of individual citizens, policemen to perform duties in the nature of maintaining order or preventing crime. Instances are where valuable property is temporarily and temptingly exposed to mixed assemblies, as at weddings, to guard the presents, or sales or bazaars; or where assemblies are likely to produce disorder, as at races, or football meetings, or to regulate traffic to private festivities such as dances. It would take very clear authority to persuade me this is illegal."

21

It is also clear from the decision in the Glasbrook case that the provision of protection in the context of an industrial dispute may in certain circumstances constitute the provision of special police services for which a charge can be made. Moreover it is to be observed that in Glamorganshire Coal Co. v. Glamorganshire County Council (1916) 114 Law Times 717 (not reported on this point in (1916) 2 King's Bench 206) Lord Justice Phillimore stated in the context of a coal strike in South Wales, where a colliery company had asked for 24 policemen on special duty, that the request meant "that they would have to pay the usual charge for police sent on special request for private protection": see p71s8.

22

Further information as to the existence and understanding of the practice is to be found in the report of the Shortt Committee which was set up in June 1923 following the events at the first Cup Final held at Wembley Stadium on the 28th April 1923.

23

In their report the committee considered the existing arrangements for the control of crowds in and around sports grounds.

24

In paragraph 20 of the report they turned to deal with the provision of police for duty inside grounds. The paragraph included these passages:

"At present the number of police to be provided on any particular occasion is settled by consultation between the ground authorities and the Chief Officer of Police, and the former are charged for the services of the police at rates fixed by the police authority. It is evident that the number of police to be supplied cannot be determined by any mathematical formula according to the size of the ground or the number of spectators which it will accommodate; nor is it possible to say with certainty in advance that any particular number...

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