BUBBLE TRAVEL LIES AND DISHONESTY
The purpose of the Police Service is to uphold the law fairly and firmly:
- to prevent crime
- to pursue and bring to justice those who break the law
- to keep the Queen‟s Peace
- to protect, help and reassure the community
- and to be seen to do all this with integrity, common sense and sound judgement.
Now, you might be forgiven for saying so what? Every police force has those purposes. If a police force does not fulfil those purposes, it is fair to say that it has failed to do its duty.
The Chief Constable of a Police Force is the person who is responsible for how the force conducts itself. When a police force fails to fulfil its purpose and then issues deliberately DISHONEST statements trying to pass the blame onto innocent parties, then questions are raised about the fitness of the Chief Constable to hold that office. If they have not got the decency to resign following such failures, then the Police & Crime Commissioner for the area should use their powers to remove such an incompetent and dishonest person from the role of Chief Constable.
Police forces have an often difficult task in policing high profile football matches and keeping the police. I have been to many high profile games and seen lots of violence and would not like to have the job of keeping the peace. However, that is exactly what the police force are expected to do.
One thing the police have started doing for some games is to force all away fans to travel on organised transport – so called “bubble travel”. It seems to have started with Hampshire police forcing Southampton fans to travel this way to Portsmouth and vice versa. If you do not go on the bubble transport, you cant have a ticket for the game. Even if you are a Portsmouth fan who lives next to Southampton’s ground, you would have to travel to Portsmouth to get on a bus to Southampton and after the game would have to travel to Portsmouth on the bus to then travel back to Southampton. There are no exceptions.
Sadly other police forces have copied this idea and it has even spread to non league football with the Wrexham v Chester game in the Conference. There is lots of disquiet about the use of bubble travel
Northumbria Police force have tried to force this upon Sunderland fans attending the forthcoming Derby game at St James’ Park Newcastle. This is the same police force who for many years have refused to allow Derby games to kick off later than 1:30pm, allegedly to prevent trouble.
Northumbria Police have failed repeatedly in recent years to police effectively the Newcastle v Sunderland Derby games, despite ever increasing manpower on duty, use of CCTV, helmet cameras, cctv, helicopters and drafting in mounted police from West Yorkshire. Blame the fans you say? Well, in reality, the trouble in recent years would never have been on the scale of the 1980s. The make up of football fans has changed. The NME hooligan group is now aged 50+ years and the Gremlins are all over 40. These are the so called hooligan groups attached to Newcastle. I should know, i have represented many of them in court in the past. These days most are married with kids, or even grandkids and are more concerned with keeping a roof over their heads than fighting.
What has happened in recent years at the game is the local, mainly non footballing element have misbehaved. Northumbria Police have spent their time and resources hassling the hooligans from the past and have missed the obvious before their nose – i.e. that it is not those hooligans from the past who are a threat.
As a defence lawyer, I had experience of cases where the police had not told the truth, but in 2010 I was a witness to an arrest of someone where the police tried to frame an innocent football fan after the Newcastle v Sunderland Derby. This was not an individual officer lying, but a conspiracy by officers at all levels. The arresting officer claimed to have arrested the victim who was trying to attack the visiting fans. This despite the fact that at the time of the arrest the visiting fans were still locked in the football ground. The arrest was filmed by myself and that shows the officer managing to get all material facts wrong.
The matter gets stranger as when interviewed the police show the victim cctv from a pub he had been in. When the case came to court, the police denied there was any CCTV footage in their possession. They claimed that they had not had footage in pub, even though the interview tapes clearly show officers asking about the CCTV. The police also claim that every police camera that day had malfunctioned and that there was no cctv of any incident anywhere in Newcastle that day.
Then the police sought to have the 2 police officers identities withheld from the defence. This is the sort of thing that happens occasionally in major terrorism or murder cases, not in a minor affray allegation.
Fortunately for the victim in that case, I had taken some mobile footage of his arrest, quite by chance. This helped him establish his innocence, but the police lied to the victim’s solicitors and indeed to the court re the CCTV.
This is not the act of a lone PC, this is corruption and lying coming from a very high level.
So, back to the bubble travel being forced upon Sunderland fans. It was clear that Sunderland FC were not happy about this. Both clubs are unhappy about the kick off times being no later than 1:30 pm as this prevents the games being televised.
Northumbria Police clearly employ Hans Christian Anderson as their press officer as they issued a statement containing the following gems:
Clarification regarding the transportation of Sunderland AFC fans to St James’ Park on February 1:
Assistant Chief Constable Jo Farrell said: “As we have said previously Northumbria Police cannot direct changes to kick off times or control the issue of tickets and how supporters travel to matches.
“The condition of ticketing and transportation to St James’ Park is a contractual issue between the club and supporters and is not something Northumbria Police is involved in.
“We cannot and will not direct supporters on how they travel to the game.
“That said, the transportation issue has been discussed between both clubs and the police. Based on those discussions Sunderland Football Club took this decision which is aimed at ensuring the safety of their supporters, and it is a decision which we welcome.
This was clearly an attempt by Northumbria Police to deflect criticism from the police force to the clubs. The statements that the police do not have any say over kick off times and fans transport is so patently false as to be absurd. If they do not seek to influence these matters, then they are failing in their duties. Whether they should be imposing bubble travel and early kick offs is a different matter
Sadly for Northumbria Police it has massively back fired upon them as today, Newcastle & Sunderland football clubs issued the following statement.
Newcastle United and Sunderland AFC are surprised and disappointed with the statement issued yesterday by Northumbria Police in which the force claims that the police cannot direct changes to kick-off times for the clubs’ fixtures, referring in particular to the derby games.
Over a number of years both clubs have made repeated representations to Northumbria Police to try and reach agreement over kick-off times to enable a traditional 3pm kick-off, or later, to enable broadcasters to give the game consideration in the majority of their time slots for live coverage.
Police forces up and down the country have been able to police high-profile derby matches for years, including most recently the first Welsh derby in the Premier League, Cardiff v Swansea, on Sunday 3rd November at 4pm, Arsenal v Tottenham at 5.15pm on Saturday 4th January, and Manchester City v Manchester United on Sunday 22nd September at 4pm.
In recent years, Northumbria Police have rejected every request made by the clubs for later kick-off slots, including Saturday 5.30pm, Sunday 4pm and Monday 8pm.
Both clubs have evidence in the form of considerable written correspondence between Northumbria Police, the Premier League and the clubs, which contradicts their statement of yesterday.
Indeed that correspondence has stated that Northumbria Police would not be prepared to police the evening fixtures requested previously, as well as their confirmation to the Premier League in writing in January 2013 that the force would not support derby matches with kick-off times later than 1.30pm.
For Northumbria Police therefore to issue a statement stating that they do not direct changes to kick-off times is quite frankly false and absurd – and conflicts with the respectful and responsible manner in which both Newcastle United and Sunderland AFC have engaged with the police over many years with regard to the derby fixture.
In light of Northumbria Police’s latest statement, Newcastle United and Sunderland AFC will now inform the Premier League that all future fixtures between the two clubs will be available for kick-off times to suit the clubs, the League and their broadcast partners, if applicable, and will expect Northumbria Police to police these games, especially given the considerable costs both clubs incur for such special police services.
After considering the police position, Sunderland AFC will be withdrawing the terms and conditions of ticket sales, which previously stated that all supporters must attend the game on official transport. The arrangements to provide complimentary buses and supporters branch transport will remain in place and Sunderland AFC advises fans that this is the safest method of travel to St James’ Park.
This is an incredible statement. The 2 clubs are to put it bluntly calling Northumbria Police liars. The 2 clubs have also ensured their will be no bubble travel. Clearly there is no reason in future why games can’t kick off at 3pm or later. As the police say they have no influence on transport or kick off times.
So lets just reflect on things:
1. Northumbria Police in seeking to impose “bubble travel” arrangements are effectively admitting they cannot fulfil their purpose. That surely is a reason for the resignation or sacking of the Chief Constable.
2. Northumbria Police then lie to try to shift the blame for the kick off times and “bubble travel” to the football clubs. The clubs are clear that this is contrary to the correspondence between the clubs and the police and their letter of January 2013 to the Premier League. Remember that purpose at the start of this blog
to be seen to do all this with integrity, common sense and sound judgement.
Quite how lying, blaming others is acting with integrity and sound judgement. Again this failure surely is a reason for the resignation or sacking of the Chief Constable.
For the incidents above, Sue Sims was a senior management team member of Northumbria police if not Chief Constable. Just as she was at the time of the Raul Moat Case. The IPCC investigated Northumbria Police over that case and in their report made damning criticisms of the Northumbria Police Force.
You will remember David Rathband was the police officer blinded by Raul Moat. Sadly the leadership of Northumbria Police failed to provided sufficient support to the injured officer and he tragically took his own life. The inquest into this has again been critical of Northumbria Police. The same Northumbria Police under the leadership (Joke?) of Sue Sims. How many times does she have to screw up before she eventually has the decency to resign?
Given Sue Sims complete failure to ensure her police force act with integrity or to do their duty, it is time for the Police & Crime Commissioner for the Area Vera Baird to step in and exercise her powers and dismiss this thoroughly incompetent and disreputable Chief Constable before she brings even more shame on Northumbria Police.