A recent case dealt with before Lincoln Crown Court alleged to involved football related violence demonstrated the ability of the expert team at VHS Fletchers to work together to secure an excellent outcome for our clients.
Our clients were able to rely upon the skills of accredited police station representative Rob Lowe, criminal solicitor Ben Strelley, senior crown court litigator Ruth Campbell and solicitor advocates Kevin Tomlinson and William Bennett.
The case involved our team representing four clients who were part of a brawl on Lincoln High Street on the day that Lincoln City played Chesterfield Town. An important question was to be whether this was football related violence or not?
The circumstances of the offending
Police were called towards the end of the afternoon to a large fight taking place on Lincoln High Street. Around 20 males were fighting using street furniture, chairs and even metal crowd gates as weapons. These items were being thrown between the opposing parties without consideration for those not involved. Shoppers included the elderly and children who were forced to flee the violence.
How were our clients identified?
After the incident the police took steps to try and identify those involved in the offending. Lincolnshire police ask their Derbyshire colleagues to view CCTV footage and photographs. There were also national press releases. As a result, seven of those involved were prosecuted for the incident.
VHS Fletchers were instructed by four of those involved in the violence. They received our expert legal advice on both the charge of violent disorder and the football banning order applications that might follow.
Charges of violent disorder
All of the defendants were originally charged with an allegation of violent disorder. This offence carries a maximum sentence of five years in prison. Prison is usually inevitable for this charge, even on a guilty plea.
Once the case was transferred to Lincoln Crown Court we began negotiations with the prosecution to see whether a lesser charge of affray would be acceptable. These discussions were successful and as a result charges of affray were substituted instead. Although serious, the maximum sentence for affray is one of three years.
Our clients had always accepted that they were in the wrong, but it was important that they faced the correct charge and one that allowed an opportunity to avoid an immediate custodial sentence. Once the charges were amended, all four of our clients pleaded guilty.
The evidence provided was overwhelming and therefore each client was advised to enter a guilty plea knowing that there was a substantial risk of a custodial sentence.
Once we advanced mitigation on behalf of our clients, the Crown Court judge imposed a suspended prison sentence with unpaid work and financial penalties.
Argument against a football banning order
As a result of the conviction the prosecution made an application for a football banning order for each of our clients. More information about the circumstances in which such orders are made can be found here.
Had the application been successful our clients would not have been able to attend any FA match in the UK for a minimum of 3 years with additional conditions attached.
A pre-condition for imposing a football banning order is that this offence be football related violence. Having studied the evidence closely, and knowing the relevant case law in great detail, our team led by solicitor advocate Kevin Tomlinson drafted legal argument to serve on the court and prosecution.
Not football related violence
This showed through the evidence that there was no link between this offence and the football match. Instead, our clients had been in Lincoln coincidentally and had no tickets for the match or intention to go. As a result, affray was not football related violence.
The court agreed and refused the application made by the prosecution in relation to all of our clients. Our clients were understandably delighted as they could attend football matches without restriction if they wished.
Contact one of our Football law specialists
If you are arrested or know that the police wish to speak to you about a football related offence then make sure you insist on your right to free and independent legal advice.
If you have already been interviewed or face court proceedings we can still make a real difference to the outcome of your case.
We have offices across the East Midlands and will happily travel across the country to provide representation for all football related offences.
Alternatively you can contact us using the form below.