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May 15 2019
By Mike Jewell

Mike Jewell is the industry’s leading legal journalist, covering all key cases brought before Public Inquries, Tribunals, Magistrates and Crown Courts

Licence lost after ‘serious’ football violence

Widnes-based Huyton Minicoaches, called before Traffic Commissioner (TC) Simon Evans following serious violence at a football match between Millwall and Everton in January, has had its 16-vehicle international licence revoked for a lack of financial standing.

Constable Michael Daker, a Merseyside Police football liaison officer, told the TC that in 28 years of police service, it was the worst football violence he had ever seen. Because of intelligence from Metropolitan Police that there was a serious risk of violence, they were in full riot gear. Because of the intelligence he had asked for the registration number of the coaches, the telephone numbers of the organisers and the names of the drivers, so the coaches could be tracked. 

Instructions were given that there be no stops by coaches within 10 miles after entering into London, with a strict route and tight timetable. Of 18 coaches carrying Everton fans, all but two operated by Huyton Mini Coaches followed the instructions. One coach dropped its passengers at Euston Station after going off route and arrived at the stadium empty.

The other stopped for passengers to go drinking in Luton. When it arrived, it was denied entry to the stadium because it was late and it was directed to drop off at a bus stop 100 yards away, and violence erupted with Millwall fans, with the Everton supporters throwing beer cans at them. The violence resulted in the coach being badly damaged.  

Mr Christian said that they had never really had a problem before the Millwall game in nine years of operating football excursions and they had not anticipated any trouble. They had had no problems since. If he had known severe violence was anticipated they would have put two drivers on each coach. There was not a lot more he could have done. 

Financial evidence was heard in private.

In his decision refusing to accept the surrender of the licence, the TC said that the developing financial difficulties had not been notified as a material change, as they ought to have been. 

He did not accept the contention that the company had not come to appreciate the significantly increased risk, which the police were seeking to address. That would have been obvious because of the increased information required of them and the specific instruction about there being no stops. Taking account of the claimed knowledge and experience of Huyton as a football transport provider over a number of years, it ought to have been aware of the significance of the match.

Though he concluded that the company’s repute was not lost, it should be seriously embarrassed at its failure to contribute its full part in the management of a fixture versus Millwall. While it might well be the case that some of its passengers might have taken part in the criminal activity, he was equally satisfied that others would not have wished to have any part in it but were nevertheless placed in danger, or became witnesses to disorder and violence. There was a clear failure of management, but its acts or omissions were ignorant and negligent rather than reckless or deliberate.

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