Ipswich Town sue Suffolk police for £511k over ‘illegal’ charges

Portman Road

Portman Road - Credit: Mike Page

Ipswich Town are suing Suffolk police for over £500,000 claiming they were “illegally” charged for policing costs on match days.

The club say they “overpaid charges” to the tune of £511,869 between 2008 and 2013 to Suffolk Constabulary, to cover the cost of keeping order in the streets surrounding the Portman Road ground, and now want cops to cough the money back up.

Ipswich Football Club Company Ltd has issued a High Court writ, seeking recompense from the Chief Constable of Suffolk Constabulary claiming it was outside the power of the police to demand charges for policing areas which surround the stadium, but were not owned by the club.

“Instead the services were provided in discharge of Suffolk Constabulary’s ordinary public duty to prevent crime and protect life and property,” the writ states.

The club have made the decision to sue in the wake of a victory last year for Leeds Utd against West Yorkshire police, in a test case on the validity of match day charges.

After a bitterly contested case, High Court judge Mr Justice Eady ruled that charges could not be levied for policing public land on match days, but only for providing services on land under the club’s control.

Leeds Utd won about £2m and opened the floodgates for other clubs to launch similar cases against their local police forces.

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In the writ, Hugh Southey QC, says that the club have been the victims of “illegal charging” in relation to league, cup and friendly games since July 2008.

The barrister says the club had signed two agreements with the police to pay charges for “supply of special police services” on match days, ranging from £5,926 to £25,242 per match.

Calling for the money to be repaid, he says that “insofar as the charges were levied for public order policing on public land” the force had no legal power to levy them.

The QC also states that the club have written to Suffolk Police requesting reimburement of the cash but “no substantive response has been received to that letter.”

Whilst the club say they are owed more than half a million pounds, the writ says that “it is not possible to fully particularise the damages payable” at this time, because of difficulties working out how many police were deployed on public streets and how many on club-controlled land on each particular match day.

The club are also seeking interest on the sums they say they are owed.

The Chief Constable’s defence to the claim was not available from the court and the contents of the writ have yet to be tested in evidence before a judge.