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Thursday, 31 January, 2002, 10:07 GMT
Hooligans 'free to attend World Cup'
Euro 2000
The Football Disorder Act followed Euro 2000 clashes
Up to 400 convicted football hooligans will be free to attend the World Cup because magistrates have refused to ban them from games, a BBC Radio Five Live investigation has found.

Many hooligans who have been in jail - including one who served three months for punching a policeman - are still able attend matches because of inconsistencies in sentencing, according to senior police officers.

Almost 900 people are banned from attending games and will have to report to police stations while England play their three group games in Japan in early June.

But, because of the rising number of football-related offences, almost half as many again should have been banned, according to the Association of Chief Police Officers (Acpo).

I would like to see more pressure on courts to apply the law of the land

Assistant chief constable Ron Hogg

Under the Football Disorder Act, created following violent clashes between English and German fans during Euro 2000 in Brussels, magistrates must apply banning orders when requested by police.

Some courts impose them for people who run onto the pitch when their team scores.

But in Watford just one of 20 applications following football-related offences was granted last year.

Assistant chief constable Ron Hogg, in charge of football matters for Acpo, says a clampdown now could "impact quite significantly on fan behaviour in the run-up to the World Cup".

"I would like to see more pressure on courts to apply the law of the land," he said.

Human rights

"The whole purpose of the legislation was to ban these people from football matches - but some magistrates are unwilling to give a three-year ban," Mr Hogg continued.

"Magistrates are concerned that the legislation breaches human rights - but that has been proven not to be the case," he concluded.

The Home Office says the lord chancellor has spoken to magistrates about sentencing and the situation is being monitored.

The BBC's Doug Morris
"The imposition on bans in England is inconsistent"
Magistrates Association Chairman, Harry Maudsley
"This legislation has been introduced without any training for magistrates"
John Denham, Home Office minister
"We have been sending out guidance"
See also:

28 Jan 02 | Asia-Pacific
Football hooligans face jail in Japan
24 Jan 02 | Business
Soccer fans face mammoth bills
03 Sep 00 | UK
New football laws praised
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