LIVERPOOL fans have scored a victory over Durham Police after they were stopped from visiting the Wearside birthplace of legendary manager Bob Paisley.
Supporters’ group Spirit of Shankly filed a complaint against both Durham and Northumbria Police after their coaches were escorted all the way back to Merseyside in March last year after an away game against Sunderland.
Fans claimed they were not even allowed to stop for toilet breaks, while drivers complained of exhaustion after being forced to tackle the 160-mile journey without a break.
Many had also hoped to be able to pay a visit to Hetton to see the memorial for former Liverpool boss and local hero Bob Paisley.
While an initial complaint against Northumbria Police was rejected, a further complaint against Durham Police has proved successful, with fans now organising a bid for compensation for their mistreatment.
Roy Bentham, travel officer for the Spirit of Shankly, thanked the Football Supporters’ Federation (FSF) for their help throughout the process and said he hoped it would help change the attitude of the police towards football supporters.
He said: “We’ve been vindicated by carrying on with this claim. We’ve worked with the FSF and they said it may open the door for others to take action, so it could have far-reaching implications.
“I think it comes back to the way football fans are treated. We should be treated like adults, but that is not what the police did that day.
“What we are saying is that they transgressed and they should be accountable just like we would be if we broke the law. They have a responsibility to us as people, as well as football fans.
“It might make them think twice about the way they treat football fans in the future.”
Spirit of Shankly now has until November 8 to appeal to the Independent Police Complaints Commission against the decision not to find any officer guilty of misconduct.
It could also claim for small compensation payments for breach of human rights and false imprisonment.
The visit to Hetton finally took place in March this year, when 150 supporters who made the trip were welcomed by civic dignitaries.
Relatives including Bob Paisley’s niece Marilyn also met the group ahead of Liverpool’s game against Sunderland at the Stadium of Light.
A spokesman for Durham Police said: “This public complaint was received from a Liverpool football fan who was concerned with a police escort from the North East back to Liverpool. Durham Constabulary had no involvement in restricting the movement of coaches or preventing them from accessing the Bob Paisley memorial in Hetton.
“Our policing operation was carried out in response to local motorway services in the Durham Constabulary police area who had requested police assistance after disorder and criminal offences on their premises linked to travelling premiership football fans.
“These offences have in the past included incidents of public order, theft and more recently a sexual offence. The intention of the police operation was to encourage coaches not to stop in these areas where they were not permitted by the proprietors.
“The vast majority of Premiership football fans are good natured, family oriented and law abiding, but a small minority who choose to cause damage, steal and create disorder need to be managed to reduce the risk of harm to others.”