Judge in Ipswich Town policing row ‘took eye off the ball’, Court of Appeal told

Suffolk officers policing a Leeds match at Portman Road. Picture: ANDY ABBOTT

Suffolk officers policing a Leeds match at Portman Road. Picture: ANDY ABBOTT

The judge who ruled against Ipswich Town in a row over who should pay for policing outside its stadium on match days “took his eye off the ball”, the Court of Appeal has heard.

The club says that Suffolk Constabulary was not entitled to charge for the provision of “special police services” on the public highway on Portman Road and Sir Alf Ramsey Way, where the gates and turnstiles are situated, and which are the subject of a traffic control order by the local authority.

It asked Mr Justice Green at London’s High Court to make a declaration in its favour over its claim which relates to policing between 2008 and 2013.

Lawyers for the police argued that the test of whether the land was “owned, leased or controlled” was the correct one for determining whether it was carrying out special police services, and that the club controlled the public highway.

Ipswich Town said the correct test was whether policing was conducted on public, as opposed to private, land and - in any case - it did not “control” the public highway.

Last year the judge said that, from the facts, the services provided by the police within the traffic control order area amounted to special police services and they were entitled to impose charges.

On Tuesday, Michael Beloff QC said that the judge misdirected himself on the law.

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“He over-complicated what is or should be a simple issue. He spent so much time in examining various trees, that he lost sight of the wood.

“A better metaphor might be that he took his eye off the ball.”

Mr Beloff said that more than £500,000 was at stake in the current dispute.

He added: “This decision, if upheld, will be expensive for a large number of clubs in the Football League and, one may infer, in the Premier League too.”

Counsel said it was the fourth case about match day policing to come before the courts in the last 30 years, and it was to be hoped that the appeal judges would state or restate the governing law in such a way as to inhibit any further litigation on the issue.

Lady Justice Gloster, Lord Justice Gross and Lord Justice Briggs are expected to reserve their decision to a later date.

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