The police and prosecutors are to operate a ‘zero tolerance’ policy for football–related offences during 2005/2006.
The Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) and Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) have signed a joint protocol stating that there will be a presumption of prosecution whenever there is enough evidence to bring an offender to court. On conviction, the CPS will invite the court to impose a football banning order – which prevents offenders from attending domestic football matches for at least three years or travelling abroad to watch English or Welsh teams play.
The new prosecution policy, issued to coincide with the 2006 World Cup in Germany, states that alternatives to prosecution – such as a caution or a penalty notice for disorder – would only be offered in “extremely exceptional circumstances”. It also states that courts will be asked for offences to be deemed ‘football-related’ “wherever appropriate, including offences committed some distance from a ground and some time before or after a game”.
Chief Crown Prosecutor for Hampshire and the Isle of Wight, Nick Hawkins, said: “Hooligans hate and fear football banning orders, so the orders are a key weapon against them. The action starts now. If you cause trouble at a domestic match, or related to one, you are almost certain to be prosecuted.”
ACPO lead on football-related matters, David Swift, said: “There are currently 900 individuals who are being targeted by 29 dedicated policing operations across the country. Those officers will be seeking direction from the CPS on the evidence they have collected and the positive approach to prosecution should increase convictions and bans.”
The most recent Home Office figures show that the number of football banning orders increased from 1,794 to 2,596 over the 2003/4 season. Anyone breaching an order can be subject to six months in prison or a £5,000 fine.