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Last Updated: Friday, 12 August 2005, 12:53 GMT 13:53 UK
Hooligan laws tightening unveiled
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Prosecutors have announced plans to tighten up on football hooliganism ahead of the World Cup next year.

More minor offences will be prosecuted and fewer people let off with cautions, under plans agreed by police chiefs and the Crown Prosecution Service.

This will in turn lead to more travel bans being imposed on known hooligans, the BBC's Gordon Farquahar reports.

But the Football Supporters Federation says it fears some fans may be harshly penalised for very minor offences.

However, the group says it does support action against those who are violent or who threaten violence.

Legislation to ban known football hooligans from travelling overseas for key games was introduced five years ago.

Pre-match fights

Under these laws, known trouble-makers are required to report to local police stations and hand their passports in ahead of important international matches.

Police, the government and football authorities believe the laws have been effective in reducing trouble and restoring the previously tarnished reputation of England soccer fans.

According to Home Office figures for the 2003/04 season, the number of Football Banning Orders increased from 1,794 to 2,596 in just over a year.

The England fans should try to emulate the Scottish and Irish fans, who enjoy the game ... and the occasion
David Blundell

And arrests decreased from 4,413 to 3,982 over the same period.

Currently the 42 police forces in England and Wales vary the way they deal with offenders.

Now the CPS wants to bring them into line by issuing new guidelines for tackling trouble inside and outside grounds.

A zero tolerance policy for football-related offences will be enforced, which means there will be a presumption of prosecution whenever there is enough evidence to bring offenders to court.

Where convictions are made, and are deemed to be football-related, the CPS will invite the sentencing court to impose a Football Banning Order.

The maximum punishments for breaching this order are six months in prison and a 5,000 fine.

They should also have their freedom to travel monitored by the police
Alan Lord, Manchester, England

Plans to deal with fans who arrange to meet by using their mobile phones for fights before games have also been set out.

Chief Crown Prosecutor for the West Midlands David Blundell said: "We want to prevent the small minority of yobs from travelling to Germany for the World Cup in 2006."

He said that while most England fans were a credit to the game, a minority ruined the occasion and gave all England supporters a bad reputation.

'Positive approach'

The move to seek banning orders - which prevent convicted hooligans travelling out of the country whenever England or Wales are playing abroad - has been welcomed by football authorities.

David Swift, the Association of Chief Police Officers' lead on football-related matters and Deputy Chief Constable of Staffordshire Police, also backed the move.

"There are currently 900 individuals who are being targeted by 29 dedicated policing operations across the country." he said.

"Those officers will be seeking direction from the CPS on the evidence they have collected and the positive approach to prosecution should increase convictions and bans.

"Most importantly it will help reduce the likelihood of violence by the English in Germany."

A football fan expresses concern about the crackdown

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