A Manchester United football fan cleared of causing affray outside Wembley Stadium is suing police for concocting a “fantasy” prosecution.
Dad-of-four Alan Taylor claims he went to the aid of a fellow supporter during a disturbance outside the ground before Manchester United’s 2011 FA Cup semi-final clash with rivals Manchester City. Mr Taylor was handcuffed, put in a van and charged with affray – but was later cleared of any wrong-doing.
The 31-year-old, from Aylesham, near Canterbury, is now bringing a claim against the Met Police for assault, false imprisonment and malicious prosecution. His legal team accuses officers of “over-charging” Mr Taylor, in order to pressure him into accepting a lesser charge, because they knew the arrest was unjustified. Charlotte Ventham, representing the Met, said the police denied all of the allegations.
Mr Taylor’s barrister, Henry Gow, told a jury at Central London County Court that the officers had no legitimate reason to arrest him. And, having done so, a “fantasy picture” was created to encourage the Crown Prosecution Service to sign off a charge of affray.
“Our case is that the interviewing officer knew from the beginning of the difficulties they had with the arrest,” Mr Gow said. “The decision was made then and there to overcharge Mr Taylor with affray.”
Summaries of the evidence were not “fair or balanced” and were designed for the “specific purpose” of getting the CPS to charge affray, he said. When the case reached court, Mr Taylor was offered the chance to plead to the lesser charge of obstructing police, he continued.
“He was a man of good character, he knew he had done nothing wrong and he refused that,” said Mr Gow. ”Then there was a determination in his favour.”
Giving evidence, Mr Taylor, who runs an electrical firm, said he was of good character and is married with four children, two of his own and two adopted. He said he had gone to the match on a coach organised by Kent-based United supporters’ group, Invicta Reds.
He had some drinks in a pub near the north London stadium and began making his way with a friend towards Wembley. However, when they approached the turnstile, chanting from Man City fans became more aggressive, he said. He had passed them, but his friend had not. When he turned, the friend was on the floor, trying to drag himself away from someone in front of him.
“I lifted him, turned him and pushed him in the direction we were supposed to be going to get to our turnstiles,” he told the jury.
“As I was about to follow, I was grabbed from behind and pushed against the stadium wall. That’s when I was arrested.”
Mr Taylor, in a grey suit and poppy-emblazoned tie, said being led away in cuffs to a police van had been “embarrassing” for him. He was told he was being arrested for obstructing police, but was “shocked” when later bailed for affray and charged.
The hearing continues.