Leeds Utd Ground Policing

Leeds Utd 1 West Yorkshire Police 0

This was not the score in a football match. It was a result in a very high profile High Court case that West Yorkshire Police lost with a spectacular own goal and concerned who should pay for policing around the Elland Road stadium on match days.

The once-mighty Leeds United had argued policing streets and car parks near its Elland Road ground was the force’s responsibility. West Yorkshire Police wanted to give themselves carte blanche, not just in the vicinity of the stadium but across the city of Leeds as well.

Mr Justice Eady, delivering his Judgement at Leeds High Court, agreed these were not special police services and said the force must repay the club fees already levied for these services. West Yorkshire Police said the judgement would have a “significant impact” on police and the taxpayer. The full transcript of the judgement can be read here:

The football club correctly argued that policing away from the immediate confines of the stadium fell within the scope of normal police obligations to maintain public order. The Judge ruled the club should not pay for such policing. West Yorkshire Police must now reimburse the club for payments made over the past three years. The amount has not been revealed but it is understood that the total cost to the taxpayer, including legal fees, is well over £1 million. Or put another way, the cost of 30 police officers on the beat.

What troubles uPSD most is a further repetition of West Yorkshire Police’s concept of it’s own seeming invincibility when using the taxpayer’s money to fund what are, on the face of it, forlorn legal causes. Unbelievably, the case law which ulimately sealed their fate in the Leeds Utd was another legal dispute involving them! None other than Reading Festival Ltd v West Yorkshire Police Authority (High Court judgement here) decided only three years before the police embarked on the case against LUFC.

The two men with whom ultimate responsibility lay for pursuing, or settling, this case are WYPA Chair, Mark Burns-Williamson and his Chief Executive & Solicitor, Fraser Sampson, whose dodgy dealings we hear plenty of elsewhere on this website. Interestingly, yet another FoI request concerning the fiscal relationship between Sampson/Burns-Williamson/3 Serjeants Inn Barrister’s Chambers is being stalled for no good reason.

As HH Judge Sir Peter Coulson recently observed in the same Court, in another civil case brought against West Yorkshire Police: “It is wrong that ‘principle’ is exerted by a person who is not paying for it“.

West Yorkshire Police sought to have the Leeds Utd ground policing matter re-heard at the Court of Appeal in London. The Hearing began on 11th February and judgement by Lord Dyson (Master of the Rolls),  Lord Justice Moore-Bick and Lord Justice McCombe was handed down on 7th March 2013. It dismissed the police claim and awarded costs of the hearing against them.

Lord Dyson said:  “The policing of the extended footprint on match days is provided in order to maintain law and order and protect life and property in a public place.

He concluded: “None of the arguments advanced on behalf of West Yorkshire Police persuades me that the law and order services provided by them in the extended footprint are different in principle from the law and order services that they provide in any other public place.”

Full Court of Appeal Judgement can be read by clicking here.

Page last updated on Thursday 7th March 2013 at 1200hrs