West Yorkshire Police lose appeal over policing Leeds United matches

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West Yorkshire Police have lost their appeal over who should pay for policing of matches at Leeds United’s Elland Road stadium.

Last year, the team won a ruling that it was entitled to be repaid by the force for services wrongly categorised as special police services for the seasons 2009 to 2012.

The litigation involves policing in the extended footprint of land immediately around the stadium which is not owned, leased or controlled by the club.

High Court judge Mr Justice Eady said that the services rendered fell within the normal constabulary duty to keep the peace and the club, whose home matches have one of the worst records of football-related violence in the country, should be repaid.

The sum at stake amounts to about £1 million or £350,000 a season - which equates to 17 new police constables.

In the Court of Appeal today, the Master of the Rolls Lord Dyson, sitting with Lord Justice Moore-Bick and Lord Justice McCombe, 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.

“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.”

John Beggs QC, for the force, told the appeal judges that, on any realistic view, policing in the extended footprint was provided exclusively for the benefit or protection of the club and its customers - both home and away supporters.

Arguing that the High Court was wrong to say that the Police Act 1996 could not encompass such policing, he said the deployment was part of a pre-planned preventative and facilitative operation to protect those attending matches.

The area required no policing on non-match days, with one community support officer patrolling the entire area a few times a day as part of a larger beat. Yet, on match days, numerous officers were required.

Since no - or hardly any - members of the public who were not attending the match were present in the extended footprint on match days, the policing provided there was not for the protection of the general public.

In their ruling, the appeal judges said that, no doubt, most of the Leeds supporters and other visitors to matches were law- abiding.

Echoing Mr Justice Eady, Lord Dyson said: “As the judge said, they do not lose their status as members of the public when they come to a match. They are entitled to police protection when they come to a match.

“The police have a duty to maintain law and order and to protect them and their property when they approach and leave the stadium.”