Good mid-week result for Leeds United
The Court of Appeal has upheld the High Court’s decision that West Yorkshire Police (WYP) is not entitled to charge Leeds United Football Club ("the Club") for policing services provided outside property owned or controlled by the Club.
The issue here was whether WYP could charge the Club the cost of public order policing and crowd control outside the immediate environs of the Club premises at Elland Road both before and after football matches.
Both the relevant legislation and case law draw a distinction between the police performing their duty of doing what is necessary to prevent crime and provide protection, for which they cannot charge, and the police doing something else at the request of an individual (Special Police Services (SPS), for which they can charge. The issue of who benefits from the service may also be a relevant part of any analysis as to whether the service provided fall within the scope of a constable’s ordinary public duties or is it an SPS?
The Club accepted that it was responsible for the costs of SPS, but that this was properly limited to policing within the stadium itself and in the areas immediately outside the stadium owned and controlled by the Club. The WYP asserted that the concept was broader than that and that the Club should pick up the bill for policing certain other streets and public areas on match days.
The key question was whether, when police attended these other streets and public areas in connection with a football match, they were discharging their public duty of preventing crime and disorder and protecting life and property, or were instead providing some other service that was discretionary. In answering this, Lord Dyson pointed to the important role professional football plays in public life and highlighted the fact that the Club has one of the UK’s worst records for football-related violence. In rejecting WYP’s appeal, he stressed that the supporters themselves were members of the public and therefore, even though police oversaw various areas at the request of the Club, the police had a duty to maintain law and order and to protect Club supporters as members of the public when they approached and left the stadium.
The Club may now seek repayment of amounts paid previously and this case may also have implications in respect of charges made by other police forces to football clubs and other organisers of large-scale events.
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