Leeds Win Police Charges CaseChris Patzelt
Areas not run by Leeds ruled to fall within constable’s obligations
Leeds United has won a High Court test case that threatened to significantly increase the opportunity for police to charge for officers deployed outside stadia.
For the last three seasons West Yorkshire Police has billed Leeds United for deploying officers to areas, sometimes council run car parks, over which the Club had no ownership or rental agreement and took no proceeds.
The Club asked for a decision on which of the services deployed by West Yorkshire Police for the last three seasons were special police services, and whether it was entitled to be repaid for services wrongly categorised. They were represented by solicitors and FSOA Preferred Partners Burges Salmon.
The legal action involved an extended footprint of land around the stadium determined by the police which is not owned or leased by Leeds United who argued successfully that these duties fell within the scope of a constable’s normal common law obligations to maintain public order.
Mr Justice Eady ruled that those duties could not be classified as special police services and that Leeds United should be repaid. He concluded that the services rendered fell within the normal constabulary duty to keep the peace.
“More generally, it seems wrong to discount the majority of well-behaved fans who come to Elland Road, whether club supporters or visitors, all of whom retain their status as members of the public. In that capacity, they too are entitled to expect police protection,” he said.
The Judge added: “In any event, I consider that there would be insuperable difficulties in seeking to sub-divide people, in public highways and other spaces, when trying to assess to whose benefit such duties were carried out. They are intended to keep the Queen’s peace in the interests of the general public.”
West Yorkshire Police argued that the policing provided in the extended footprint was exclusively, or nearly exclusively, for the protection of those attending Leeds United’s matches and the benefit of the Club, not for the safety of the public at large. They maintained that the Club’s claim was wrong in law, offended logic and was not supportable on the facts.
Mr Justice Eady said he appreciated that his decision was unfortunate not only for West Yorkshire Police but also for the public purse and added that if the government should wish to extend the scope of special police services in such circumstances so as to ensure recoupment of police costs, legislation would be required.
A statement released by Leeds United read:
Mr Justice Eady gave judgment today in favour of Leeds United FC in a test case concerning police charges levied against the Club by West Yorkshire Police. West Yorkshire Police had sought to charge the club not just for policing in the stadium, but also for policing within a “footprint”, covering public car parks and the public highway abutting Elland Road. Mr Justice Eady held that such policing was within the normal duties of constables and hence could not be charged for as Special Police Services under section 25 of the Police Act 1996. Mr Justice Eady said at paragraph 41 of his judgment:
“it seems wrong to discount the majority of well-behaved fans who come to Elland Road, whether Club supporters or visitors, all of whom retain their status as members of the public. In that capacity, they too are entitled to expect police protection.”
Leeds United, Chief Executive, Mr Shaun Harvey, said:
“We have never objected to paying for the cost of policing on land owned, leased or controlled by the Club. However West Yorkshire Police’s stance, to seek to charge us for policing the public highway and for areas away from the ground is a step too far. We have been paying under protest for the last 3 seasons on this basis and are pleased to have received this clarification in a dispute which was only capable of being resolved in front of a judge.
Leeds United continue to have a very good relationship with West Yorkshire Police and are committed with West Yorkshire Police to minimizing the use of police resources for policing Leeds United home games and to ensuring that all spectators at Elland Road are accorded the highest standards of protection, safety and comfort.