Bristol City fans challenge police over "unjustified" use of dispersal powers

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Bristol City fans who claim they were falsely imprisoned by West Midlands Police plan to take civil action against the force.

At least season’s fixture between Birmingham City and Bristol City at St Andrew’s around 50 Robins were rounded up by police and forced to leave the city.

The crowd was forcibly escorted to New Street Station and mini-buses after supporters were issued with section 35 dispersal notices, a power police have under the Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act (2014).

“It was bewildering,” said Stuart Rogers, chair of Bristol City Supporters Club and Trust.

“There was a lot of confusion in the crowd as most them had never experienced any trouble at the match before.”

The Bristol City fans were rounded up at the Square Peg on September 12th 2015 and prevented from attending the match before being told to return to Bristol. 

“We were issued with a dispersal notice and told to get out of Birmingham City centre,” Stuart said.

“A police commander, who we’ve now managed to identify, addressed the crowd through a megaphone – he said we’d all been identified as ‘known hooligans’.”

BCSCT are now launching civil action against West Midlands Police claiming that those fans were falsely imprisoned and that Article 5 of the European Convention of Human Rights was breached.

The Trust wrote to West Midlands Police in the New Year, but the force did not respond until August this summer.

Stuart added: “It was completely unjustified – these sorts of powers should be used by police as a last resort.”

Section 35 dispersal powers are relatively new, and remain untested in the courts. At the end of last week, a lawyer acting on behalf of Bristol City fans started court proceedings against West Midlands Police.

BCST say the primary purpose of the action is to ensure such powers are not abused by police forces in future and to secure compensation for those affected.

Watching Football Is Not A Crime! is part of the FSF's ongoing drive to monitor the police in their dealings with football fans and work with them to ensure that all fans are treated fairly and within the law. You can contact FSF Caseworker Amanda Jacks via:

Thanks to West Midlands Police for the image used in this story. Reproduced here under Creative Commons licence.