Yaxley-Lennon v Chief Constable of Cambridgeshire Constabulary (unreported)

The claimant brought claims against the defendant for discrimination, harassment and breach of Articles 8,9 and 10 ECHR.

Before HHJ Walden Smith sitting at Peterborough County Court

Executive summary

The claimant, also known as Tommy Robinson, brought claims against the defendant for discrimination, harassment and breach of Articles 8,9 and 10 ECHR following a direction for him to leave under section 35 of the Anti-Social Behaviour, Crime & Policing Act 2014 (‘The Act’) following a football match. All claims were dismissed.

Background

On 27 August 2016, Cambridgeshire Constabulary were policing a football match in Cambridge between Cambridge City Football Club and Luton Town Football Club. The claimant is well known as a Luton Town Football Club fan. He was identified on arrival at Cambridge railway station as a risk based supporter (“RBS”) primarily because of past football-related disorder, but was not characterised by Inspector Johnson (designated bronze commander for the match) as an actual risk at that point because the claimant was with his children.

At 17.30 hours, after the match, a group of Luton RBS (not including the claimant) were being escorted from the football ground to the railway station. Along the way approximately 15 Cambridge Youth RBS emerged and started to approach the Luton RBS. Officers managed to halt the Luton group and maintain a cordon between the two groups. However, around 18 Luton RBS splintered off from the group and made their way to the Grain and Hop Store Public House, where the claimant was already present. It was also noted that 12 Cambridge RBS were a short distance away at the Dobblers public house.

Inspector Johnson liaised with his tactical advisor and conducted a national decision-making review, taking into account the close proximity of the two groups. His working strategy was to keep the two groups apart to prevent disorder, particularly in view of the fact that they had attempted to come together a short time earlier. It was noted that the options were for the police to remain with the two groups indefinitely or to use powers under section 35 of the Act to disperse the Luton RBS from the city centre. Inspector Johnson also considered the public expense of the police operation in his decision-making process. He ultimately decided that the Luton RBS should be dispersed if they did not leave within a reasonable timeframe. He gave authorisation to do so under section 34 of the Act.

Luton spotters at the Grain & Hop Store Public House informed the Luton RBS, including the claimant, of the decision and were told they were to leave by 18.30 hours. If they did not leave they were liable to be issued with a section 35 dispersal order.

Section 35 of the Act allows an officer to issue a dispersal order if the officer has reasonable grounds to suspect that the behaviour of the person in the locality has contributed to or is likely to contribute to members of the public in the locality being harassed, alarmed or distressed, or the occurrence in the locality of crime or disorder.

Inspector Johnson deployed a unit led by PS Street to the Grain and Hop Store Public House. On arrival PS Street noted a group of people that were previously identified to him as people who had been instructed to leave ordering more drinks at the bar. It was clear that they had not taken heed of the instruction to leave. He identified one of those people as the claimant. In addition, one of the Luton RBS as he left said to PS Street “It’s not the group outside who are going to be causing problems”. PS Street took that to mean the claimant and the other RBS who had stayed in the pub and who were ordering more drinks. PS Street entered the public house and located the claimant. He stated to him that he had been told to leave by 18.30 hours and that he was still present. It was reiterated to the claimant that he should leave. The claimant became irate and angry in response.

PS Street noted that the claimant had not been seen to individually commit disorder but he considered that the test in section 35 was satisfied due to the fact the claimant was classified as a risk based supporter, he was with Luton RBS (some of whom had been involved in the earlier confrontation), a Luton supporter indicated that the claimant would be causing problems, the claimant’s refusal to leave and his demeanour.

PS Street explained section 35 of the Act along with the rationale. PS Street told him he would therefore be given a section 35 dispersal order and asked him to leave the immediate area. PS Street then called over the radio as he had run out of section 35 dispersal orders.

During this period the claimant and his friends walked to the front of the pub and outside the pub he was joined by a couple of children. A few minutes later, an officer arrived with section 35 dispersal orders. As PS Street began to write out an order for the claimant, he and his friends began to walk away in the direction of the train station. As a result, it was unnecessary to continue to write out the order.

The claimant continued to shout at the officers and his children began to cry. PS Street walked in the direction of the claimant with a couple of officers and once satisfied that the group was dispersing they stopped.

The decision

Discrimination

The claimant accepted in cross-examination that he could not point to any evidence to show that he was targeted due to his beliefs on extremist Islam. Furthermore HHJ Walden-Smith commented that his beliefs did not amount to a philosophical belief to fall within the Equality Act 2010. In order to be a philosophical belief it has to be more than an opinion or viewpoint. The judge determined that the claimant’s beliefs amounted to a viewpoint.

Harassment

The claimant sought to suggest that his interaction with PS Street inside the pub and his interaction outside the pub where officers followed him for a short distance amounted to two courses of conduct to enable him to bring a civil claim for harassment. HHJ Walden – Smith was not satisfied that this amounted to two courses of conduct and found that “on a statutory test and on any normal reading there were not two separate occasions”. As a result, HHJ Walden-Smith concluded the claim for harassment must fail.

Articles 9 and 10

The claimant accepted in cross-examination that during the course of the incident he was not prevented from providing his views, no officer mentioned his views on Islam and there was no hint on the day about his views on Islam. He accepted that he was not at any point prevented from expressing himself or his views and therefore the judge concluded that there was no evidence to support such a claim.

Article 8

HHJ Walden – Smith found that there was evidence to support that the claimant was a risk and with other risk supporters. She also found that PS Street was entitled to take into account information from Luton Town supporters to the effect that it would be the claimant causing trouble, together with the claimant’s reaction when asked to leave.

She was satisfied that the standard for reasonable suspicion to issue a section 35 order is a low one and that the factors could turn out to be wrong. HHJ Walden-Smith stated that a police officer is obliged to look at all matters cumulatively that provide reasonable grounds to suspect and necessity to give a section 35 direction. As a result she determined that whilst Article 8 was engaged (as had been accepted by the defendant) the interference was in accordance with law.

All claims against the police were dismissed. The claimant has however indicated that he may appeal the decision.

Comment

By the conclusion of evidence, due to acceptances in evidence by the claimant, the only real contentious issue was whether any interference with the claimant’s Article 8 rights were justified.

HHJ Walden-Smith summarised the law in relation to section 35 of the Act and found that the test for reasonable suspicion remains a low test. As a result a determination was made that the issue of a section 35 order was in accordance with the law and therefore any interference with the claimant’s Article 8 rights were justified.

Furthermore HHJ Walden-Smith helpfully set out what is required for a belief to be a philosophical belief to fall within the Equality Act 2010, namely that it must be more than an opinion or viewpoint.

For further information about Weightmans or to discuss any of the issues in this update, please contact: Joanna Carty, Associate on 0116 253 9747 or joanna.carty@weightmans.com.

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