HC Deb 03 July 1985 vol 82 cc461-3
Mr. Chope

I beg to move amendment No. 35, in page 7, line 6, at end add— '(d) in the case of any offence, in addition to any other penalty, to be served with a prohibition order which shall prohibit that person for the duration of the period specified in that order from entering or attempting to enter a designated sports ground at any time during the period of a designated sporting event.'.

The Chairman

With this it will be convenient to take new clause 3—Failure to comply with prohibition order'A person who fails to comply with a prohibition order under section 8, is guilty of an offence and shall be liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding level 4 on the standard scale.'.

Mr. Chope

My amendment and new clause introduce new and relevant penalties. Paragraph 4d of the resolution of the Council of Europe of 1984 recommended that member Governments should ensure, in so far as it is legally possible, the exclusion of known trouble-makers from soccer grounds. The courts have no power to impose a general ban on hooligans. The best that they can do is to send people to an attendance centre or grant them bail on condition they they do not attend a football match. The same can also be made a condition of a probation order.

1.45 am

The idea that courts should be able to ban people from attending matches has been given to me by the chairman of Pompey football club—John Deacon. He says that he gets letters from people whom he has banned from the Pompey ground saying that they find it more of a penalty not to be able to watch Pompey again than to be in prison. I realise that many Saints supporters would say that it would be much worse for them to have to watch Pompey than to go to prison. The fact remains that many of the hooligans who get involved in trouble at football matches feel lost when they are unable to go to matches.

I accept that it would not be easy, in the absence of a membership card system, to decide whether someone had been banned, but if he appeared before the courts again and it was discovered that there was already a banning order against him, the penalty would be severe indeed. My new clause specifies a penalty for that offence.

A further benefit of such a penalty is that it can be imposed on the very young and it would protect people who visit soccer grounds. It is analogous to the protection that the courts give to road users by banning those who drink and drive from driving. Quite a lot of research has been done, and it shows that, in the past two years, about 1.5 million people did not attend soccer matches largely because of the threat from hooligans. The Government should pay attention to the need to exclude from grounds people who have caused trouble.

My proposals would not inconvenience good suppor-ters. I have recently seen the Sperry system of membership cards. It is a lot more practical than many people have suggested. I am pleased that Chelsea will embark on it, at least partly, next season.

If a national membership card system were introduced, people fear that there would be a blacklisting system without any form of legal redress. The amendment and new clause are designed to ensure that that blacklisting system can be brought in as part of the due process of law. If there were a system of national membership cards, anybody who found himself banned from designated grounds under this provision would not be able to go to those grounds and that would be clear from the national membership records. It is a sore point. I hope the Government will consider my arguments sympathetically.

Mr. Giles Shaw

I should like to respond to my hon. Friend the Member for Southampton, Itchen (Mr. Chope) by saying that we will do just that, because he has brought the Committee back to the main purpose of the Bill, which is to try to eliminate the cancer of hooliganism from the terraces of football grounds. It is beneficial that we should be dealing with this issue now in the new clause rather than in the somewhat more complex matter of what goes on in sponsored boxes.

The Government have considerable sympathy with the argument behind the amendment—that those convicted of offences of football hooliganism or football violence should be banned from attending matches. If football is to be re-created as a sport which families and respectable spectators can attend in safety and without fear, it needs to rid itself of the small minority of so-called supporters who engage in violence and hooliganism. That is the purpose behind the membership card system which the Government have urged the football authorities to adopt. The aim is to provide a practical means of excluding known trouble-makers.

Until a membership card system is introduced there would be considerable difficulties in enforcing a system of prohibition orders such as my hon. Friend has suggested. In the context of the current Bill, it would be anomalous to confer on the courts power to impose a prohibition order linked to offences under this Bill. It would, I think, be unacceptable if such orders could be made in respect of offences of drunkenness and possession of alcohol but not in respect of offences of violence and criminal damage committed at football matches. If we are to give the courts power to order persons not to attend football matches, we need to extend the many offences, other than those in the Bill, which may be committed at football grounds or in connection with football matches. My hon. Friend will understand that. We also need to have in place a means of ensuring that prohibition orders can be adequately enforced, so that the law is not brought into disrepute. That also underlines the need for the introduction of a membership card system.

I hope my hon. Friend will not press his amendment today. As I said, it would be anomalous to introduce prohibition orders in relation to the offences in this Bill alone which deals entirely with alcohol and alcohol-related offences. We do have sympathy with the general argument he has advanced. If the clubs will do their part by bringing in a membership card system, that would provide a basis on which prohibition orders could be enforced. I have already referred to the introduction of legislation next Session, following our review of the law relating to public order. That legislation would be a more appropriate vehicle than the current Bill for introducing any power of the kind my hon. Friend has in mind across the whole range of football offences, but the football authorities would have to play their part in making enforcement both possible and effective.

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for drawing the attention of the Committee to the importance that should be attached to ensuring that those who commit offences should no longer be able to enter football matches for the reasons I have stated. Because the Bill is narrow in relation to alcohol and alcohol-related offences and because it should also include other criminal offences and ordinary offences within the game, I believe it would be appropriate to look at this in another context and not in the context of this Bill.

Mr. Chope

In the light of what my hon. Friend the Minister has said, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave withdrawn.

Clause 8 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

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