Dean Morton, a Sheffield United fan based in Liverpool, tells his story which shows the value of getting some proper legal advice should you find yourself in trouble at the match...
A couple of months ago I attended Tranmere Rovers v Sheffield United. Being from Sheffield, and currently living in Liverpool, it was a fixture I was really looking forward to, as I’d not had much chance to see my team play all season. I had some mates coming up from Sheffield and, along with me and my Tranmere supporting friend, we were looking forward to having a couple of pre-match beers as you do.
It was a hot spring day and after a few beers in a couple of pubs away from the ground we made our way to the turnstile. As we got there I got my ticket out to go in, and I was in very good spirits. A couple of lads who I didn't know started a song or two off, and I started one off myself, all in good humour. The next thing I know I felt a thud from behind.
I could see it was a police constable who just started frogmarching me away from the turnstile. To cut a long story short I protested my innocence 'a little too strongly', by asking what was happening and digging my heels in and refusing to walk to the police van parked next to the turnstiles. This didn't go down at all well with the officer, and the next thing I know I’m pinned to the ground by several other police constables and my pockets are being emptied.
To say I was astonished by the overreaction to my singing is an understatement. I protested my innocence all the way to the custody suite, but it fell on deaf ears. I was let out at 9.30pm charged with being drunk trying to enter a sports ground , resisting arrest and was given a banning order. What started out as a perfect day had become a disaster.
I told a few lads I know from a football forum what had happened; I really was at rock bottom. I received a call from one of lads I know who regularly follows England away and he told me to email the FSF ASAP. He told me it was the most important e-mail I would ever send.
Bearing in mind this was Easter Sunday, I didn't expect a reply until at least the Tuesday after the Bank Holiday.
I was stunned to get an e-mail back within two hours from Amanda Jacks [the FSF’s Caseworker] to say they had received my email and were looking into it. She rang me on the Monday after e-mailing me to tell me my next step, putting me in contact with Melanie Cooke [a solicitor at Bailey Nicholson Grayson].
The work Melanie did for me prior to my hearing I cannot thank her enough for; it was relentless, offering a personal touch and nothing was too much trouble. I really cannot express my gratitude enough to both Amanda and Melanie for their advice and tireless contribution.
I won’t go into details about the trial, but Melanie organised two barristers (one for the initial hearing which was adjourned, and one for the trial). I pleaded not guilty in the first hearing and was due to plead not guilty at trial, but on the advice of my barrister I changed my plea.
I went into court expecting the worst and feeling deflated as I was convinced of my innocence, but my word and my witnesses against the police was always going to be a forlorn hope. When I pleaded guilty I soon picked up on how respected the barrister was by the judge, who commented on me making the right decision in changing my plea on his advice. He commented on me not having any convictions for some time and my good character. It seemed he had reservations about how this case had been dealt with by the CPS, and that he had some sympathy with me.
I was given £140 court costs, which was the absolute minimum he could possibly give, was bound over for a year and had my banning order lifted. What a result! I was going to go this alone in court as I did not have the funds to pay a barrister, but managed to borrow it at the last minute. I’m so glad I did.
I have learnt a few lessons from this whole experience. Firstly to keep low profile at turnstiles and never resist arrest, it’s just not worth it, and secondly that having good legal representation is an absolute must. Never go it alone if you possibly can avoid it. The most important email I’d ever send? Too right.
I cannot express in words just how much I appreciate the FSF for their help and advice in my case.
Trouble at the match? Email the FSF or call 0330 44 000 44.
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