This time it's the reporters in trouble

Many had been predicting it, and what could you really expect? With all these young men giving up their normal routines and being let loose in foreign climes for a couple of weeks, it was only a matter of time before there was trouble.

Many had been predicting it, and what could you really expect? With all these young men giving up their normal routines and being let loose in foreign climes for a couple of weeks, it was only a matter of time before there was trouble.

And yesterday it was confirmed. Three days before England's opening game in Euro 2000, and with not a football kicked, three of the team's followers had been arrested in possession of potentially deadly weapons. On this occasion, however, the trio were not members of the Headhunters or some other violent clan of football hooligans, but representatives of Her Majesty's press, specifically Her Majesty's nice-and-quietly-spoken News of the World.

The naïve might assume that reporters preparing to cover an international football tournament might spend their time stocking up on notebooks and pens rather than hunting knives and crossbows - the items with which the three were apparently arrested yesterday at a park in Brussels.

But a spokeswoman for the Screws insisted the three men had done nothing wrong. "Our journalists were investigating the widespread availability of lethal weapons on the eve of Euro 2000," she said yesterday.

"The three men were engaged in an entirely legitimate journalistic exercise in the public interest. We are extremely concerned at their detention and have taken immediate steps with the authorities to secure their prompt release."

A spokesman for the National Criminal Intelligence Service in London said hunting knives and crossbows were not banned in Belgium.

A Belgian police spokesman said the journalists, believed to be news reporter Ben Procter, photographer Paul Ashton and sports writer Jim Keat, had faced possible charges for possessing weapons "without good reason". He said: "Nobody can carry weapons without a valid reason or authorisation. They were carrying hunting knives - and they were not hunting so they were breaking the law".

It was later confirmed the men were released without charge.

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