A jury has dismissed claims by four Everton FC fans that they were falsely imprisoned and maliciously prosecuted by the Metropolitan Police following crowd trouble at Arsenal’s Emirates stadium.
Merseysiders Christopher Dutton, 25, Alex Ramsden, 34, and twins Jamie and John Martin, both 35, were arrested after alarming scenes during the Premier League clash on October 18, 2008.
The quartet were removed by officers, arrested and charged, but later acquitted of any wrongdoing at a magistrates’ court in 2009; they then launched a damages claim against the force.
But a jury at Central London County Court today took less than five hours to reject claims that the four had been unlawfully detained and subjected to prosecution on ‘fabricated evidence’.
The assault claims of Mr Dutton, Mr Ramsden and Jamie Martin were also rejected unanimously by the eight-strong jury. However, the panel remained undecided on John Martin’s assault allegation.
During a 10-day trial overseen by Judge Simon Freeland, the court heard that Everton fans in the lower tier of the Clock End were were subjected to “unpleasant” behaviour from Arsenal fans, who threw coins and spat from above.
The Martins, of Liverpool, and Mr Ramsden and Mr Dutton, of Bootle, who were sat beside a segregation barrier, were drawn into the melee that sparked off as angry toffees remonstrated with Arsenal stewards to take action.
After the stand-off, Jamie Martin, of Tyne Close, Kirkdale was detained and charged with violent disorder, while his brother, of Ennerdale Drive, Litherland, was charged with affray and being drunk in a designated football ground.
Mr Dutton, of Downing Road, was charged with obstructing police, while Alex Ramsden, of Oxford House, was charged with affray and being drunk. But all four were cleared of all charges at Highbury Magistrates’ Court in November, 2009.
Their lawyers have told the court over the past two weeks that they were “in the wrong place at the wrong time”, subjected to “excessive and injustified force” and then prosecuted with “fabricated and elaborated” police evidence.
The Met’s legal team staunchly insisted that officers had used entirely reasonable force and had reasonable grounds both to arrest and charge the four Toffees – notwithstanding their subsequent acquittals.
Today, the eight-strong jury reached their verdicts as some of the now-vindicated officers looked on. All four toffees had their false imprisonment and malicious prosecution claims rejected.
Mr Dutton and Mr Ramsden were swift to leave the court after the male foreman delivered the verdicts just before 5pm, telling the judge they wanted to go home. The Martins had not attended court.
While the jury unanimously rejected John Martin’s claims that he was falsely imprisoned and maliciously prosecuted, they remained locked on the issue of whether a blow he received from a police baton amounted to assault.
Judge Freeland said that the jury remained “at an impasse” after he had asked them: “Have the police proved on the balance of probability that baton strikes on John Martin constituted no more than reasonable force.”
One of the jurors was discharged but the remaining members of the panel will return to the court at a later date to resume their deliberations on that final remaining issue.
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