Ipswich Town Football Club Company Ltd v The Chief Constable of Suffolk Constabulary

JurisdictionEngland & Wales
CourtQueen's Bench Division
JudgeMr Justice Green
Judgment Date08 July 2016
Neutral Citation[2016] EWHC 1682 (QB)
Docket NumberCase No: HQ15X02259

[2016] EWHC 1682 (QB)

IN THE HIGH COURT OF JUSTICE

QUEEN'S BENCH DIVISION

Royal Courts of Justice

Strand, London, WC2A 2LL

Before:

Mr Justice Green

Case No: HQ15X02259

Between:
Ipswich Town Football Club Company Limited
Claimant
and
The Chief Constable of Suffolk Constabulary
Defendant

Nick De Marco of counsel and Mark Gay solicitor advocate (instructed by Hamlins LLP) for the Claimant

Dijen Basu QC and Catriona Hodge of counsel (instructed by Suffolk County Council Legal Services) for the Defendant

Hearing dates: 8 th– 9 th June 2016

Approved Judgment

I direct that pursuant to CPR PD 39A para 6.1 no official shorthand note shall be taken of this Judgment and that copies of this version as handed down may be treated as authentic.

Mr Justice Green Mr Justice Green

A. Introduction, summary and conclusions

(1) The liability issue

1

There is before the Court a trial of an issue of liability. This issue concerns the right of the Police to charge for the provision of policing services in two roads adjoining "Portman Road", the football stadium used by Ipswich Town Football Club. All along these two roads (Portman Road and Sir Alf Ramsey Way) are situated the series of gates and turnstiles at which football supporters both enter and depart the ground. There are 25 turnstiles on Portman Road and 33 on Sir Alf Ramsay Way. The two roads are the subject of a traffic control order by the local authority so that for a short period both prior to and after matches the club, through its stewards, closes the roads by placing bollards and others signs and barriers at entry points and monitors and controls the closed area. Under the order there is strictly controlled access by vehicles into these roads during these times and entry is, in practice, administered by the club's stewards. Close to the gates and turnstile on the pavement of the two roads the Club's stewards erect a series of crowd control barriers which are designed to segregate the home and away teams and create safe and sterile areas in close proximity to the turnstiles so that spectators can enter the ground in an orderly fashion and be separated from the supporters of the opposing team.

2

In this area the stewards operate routine stewarding functions such as refusing entry to intoxicated or excessively rowdy or aggressive spectators. The use of these closed roads by the Club is integral to its ability to ensure that fans enter and exit the stadium in a secure and peaceful manner.

3

These measures are the logical continuation of the crowd control measures which the stewards operate inside the stadium. In a stadium very large numbers of persons meet in a confined space. Stewarding is essential for safety and good order. The entry and exit gates and turnstiles are even more accentuated pinch points and require very careful control. Before a match tens of thousands of supporters coalesce within a short time frame at these points as they seek to enter and stewards must be present on the outside to ensure orderly entry as well as on the inside to ensure an orderly procession of spectators once inside to their seats. Equally after a match that same number of supporters will gather at these same points but within an even more constrained time frame. Again there will be stewards in attendance on the inside and on the outside to ensure safety and order. A Ground Layout plan, prepared by the Club, is annexed to this judgment. It can be seen from this just why these two roads have warranted special treatment given the fact that before and after matches thousands of people will, in a relatively limited time period, be seeking to get through these gates to either enter or exit the ground.

4

The local Constabulary do not police every match played in the stadium. Instead matches are graded according to the general risk of disorder and Police resources are then allocated according to that assessment. Some matches are played without any significant Police presence at all. In fact, Ipswich Town Football Club has an exceptionally good record of supporter behaviour and it is said by the Police, without challenge from the Club, that both the behaviour of the Club's fans and the Club's general ability to ensure a safe and orderly environment for games are amongst the very best in the Championship.

5

When the Police maintain a presence at matches they will do so around the town in hot spots where fans might congregate, in the areas immediately adjacent to the gates and turnstiles, and inside the stadium. The nature of the policing activity may vary according to location. Trouble hot spots might for instance occur at the railway station (about 1 mile away from the stadium) or in pubs where away fans traditionally congregate before and after matches. But the Police may also maintain a presence in the two roads covered by the traffic control measures and in this limited area they assist stewards in the discharge of their stewarding functions. The evidence given in this trial which I accept is that in this closed area generally the Police attend in a preventative capacity in order to demonstrate a presence and thereby set a peaceful and orderly tone for the behaviour of the fans and supporters. Of course if real disorder or crime is witnessed or anticipated as imminent then the Police will, in a far more interventionist and reactive manner, act and secure arrests. But their essential aim when they do attend is to keep a low profile and to instil an air of peace and order.

(2) The law

6

In law the Police have a duty to provide policing without charge to all citizens. However, the Police also have a statutory power, when requested, to provide what are termed "Special Police Services" for which they can charge the recipient. But the Police can only charge for such services in relation to policing which falls outwith the scope of their general duty to provide policing. Whether the Police can therefore charge for services at a football match or other major event thus depends upon whether the services they provide fall, in essence, within their duty or whether they fall outside of that duty and are provided on a different basis. In this judgment I have used various expressions to describe the difference between the policing services that can and cannot be charged for. These are not terms of art but are useful in differentiating between the most important situations that arise in cases such as the present. I provide below a brief description of these terms:

i) I use the expression " operational duty" to describe the obligation of the Police to provide services for which no charge may be levied. I use the phrase as shorthand for those activities which constitute the core of the public responsibilities of the Police. It is important to recognise that in the performance of this duty the Police retain a discretion as to how resources are allocated and therefore the prima facie duty arises upon the independent (i.e. unrequested) exercise of the discretion to allocate resources.

ii) I use the expression " SPS" as shorthand for " Special Police Services". These are services for which the Police may levy a charge and they are services which in a given case when provided are pursuant to a request and are not pursuant to the operational duty.

iii) I use the expression " reactive" to describe policing services which are in response to actual or imminent disorder or crime.

iv) I use the expression " preventative" to describe the provision of Police services which are intended to prevent the emergence of crime or disorder, i.e. are not reactive and in response to actual crime or anticipated, imminent crime. For the avoidance of doubt nothing in this judgment is intended to define what, in a given case, may be understood as "imminent".

7

The power of the Police to charge for SPS is long established in the law and derives from 19 th century common law jurisprudence. It is now embodied in statute in section 25 of the Police Act 1996.

8

However, the principles which govern the divide between the services that the Police can, and cannot, charge for are not wholly clear and have caused some uncertainty amongst both Police forces and recipients of services in recent years. In the present case there is agreement that: (i) the Police have the right to charge for preventative policing services within the ground itself; but also (ii), that the Police do not have the right to charge for reactive or preventative services which are provided away from the ground for instance at the railway station or bus station or in nearby car parks or across the bridge from the station coming into town and along the roads towards the stadium.

9

Where the parties disagree lies in relation to policing in the narrow strip immediately abutting the stadium in the two roads where the main entrances and exits and turnstiles into the ground are situated and which are delineated by the local authority order.

10

There is no authority which bears precisely upon this particular situation. However, over the years the Courts have identified a series of indicia which, when applied, should lead to a conclusion as to whether charges can be applied or not. According to this case law whilst it is accepted that there may be some considerations or factors which, if present, indicate prima facie where the answer lies, everything is ultimately fact and context sensitive. There are no clear bright lines of demarcation.

(3) Conclusions

11

In the judgment I have sought to apply all of the potentially relevant considerations and to assess them in the light of the facts as I have found them to be. At the end of the day I have concluded that the Police can charge for the provision of services in the disputed area bounded by the local authority order. This is because on the facts there is a strong nexus between the crowd control services which...

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