Leeds United scores victory against West Yorkshire Police in CoA

The Court of Appeal (CoA) has thrown out an appeal by West Yorkshire Police over its obligations to police land owned by Leeds United Football Club.

Mr Justice Eady ruled last year that policing on the public highway and on public land fell within “the normal constabulary duty to keep the peace” and that the cost of doing so could not be recovered from the club (25 July 2012).

The appellate court’s panel of three, chaired by the Master of the Rolls Lord Dyson, upheld the ruling, handing a win to Burges Salmon partner Mark Gay, who had instructed Blackstone Chambers’ Michael Beloff QC for the club.

The challenge came after a change in policy by West Yorkshire Police and the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) for the 2009/10 football season that meant that instead of charging for policing at the ground, the police wanted to charge an “extended footprint” fee. That meant the club would have to pay for policing an area that embraced roads and property surrounding its Elland Road ground that were not owned or controlled by the club.

The force instructed Serjeants’ Inn Chambers’ John Beggs QC to lead the appeal against the first-instance ruling. According to the CoA ruling: “The essential question that arises on this appeal is whether the law and order services provided by WYP [West Yorkshire Police] in the extended footprint are in discharge of their public duty to maintain law and order and protect life and property.”

Dismissing the appeal in its entirety Lord Dyson MR stated: “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 WYP 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. I would dismiss this appeal.”

Gay said the ruling would have a significant impact on any public event that requires a police presence.

“The police had sought to charge the club for the normal performance of their duties on the public highway,” he explained. “This would have led to the police being able to charge for all sorts of duties for which the public have already paid, and for which they are entitled to take for granted. The maintenance of public order and the protection of the public from crime is the basic duty of the police. The public should not be made to pay for it. This case upholds that principle.”

There will now be a hearing to assess the amount of rebate the club receives by having overpaid for policing for the three seasons from 2009/10 to 2011/12.