Night courts to sit for football championships football-fest

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The Independent Online
Three of the eight cities hosting the Euro 96 football championships are to hold Britain's first night-time courts to deal with soccer thugs.

In the event of violence after matches played in Newcastle, Birmingham and Nottingham, offenders will be dealt with during sittings that could run until 11pm.

Hundreds of thousands of football fans from all over Europe will descend upon London, Manchester, Birmingham, Liverpool, Sheffield, Nottingham, Leeds and Newcastle during the three-week international tournament in June.

Their presence, coupled with widespread relaxation of pub licensing hours, is expected to lead to an increase in crimes ranging from public order offences to robbery.

In order to deal with offenders, all the cities have pruned court lists on the day after scheduled matches and three have gone further by preparing to hold evening sessions. The Lord Chancellor's Department said yesterday that it believed these were the first of their kind in Britain.

Derek Stone, the court administration manager in Birmingham, said: "We are in the process of making arrangements to put on extra courts should they be required - we hope they won't be. We will be making available courts to run late into the evening if necessary. On June 10, the tournament here kicks off with a 4.30pm match. On that day we will have a court sitting from 6.30pm and going on until 9, 10, 11pm or whatever."

A spokeswoman for Nottingham magistrates said evening courts were being considered "should the need arise".

In Newcastle, magistrates will sit from 7 to 11pm on the three days when games are played there. Stephen Salisbury, listings officer at Newcastle Magistrates Court, said: "The idea is to ensure people who come before the courts are processed quickly and no backlog develops."

Not everyone welcomed the idea, however. Barney Rice, Newcastle's Lord Mayor, said: "I am all for taking adequate and sensible policing but I think this is one step too far. I don't think there will be any problems given the nature of the contest."

Most of the cities hosting games are extending licensing hours as a measure of hospitality. Pubs in Newcastle, Nottingham, Liverpool and Manchester can apply for extensions from 11pm to midnight, while in London, Leeds, Sheffield and Birmingham, individual applications will be dealt with on merit.

Thousands of ticket applications for the Euro 96 soccer championships in England are to be checked by the Football Association in the wake of the scandal which has led to the resignation of a senior official.

The checks announced yesterday will concentrate on suspected multiple applications and requests for tickets for groups. The FA hopes that only a few hundred applications will eventually have to be refused.

The move follows the resignation of Trevor Phillips, the FA's commercial director, on Tuesday, and police raids last week on 11 organisations suspected of involvement in illegal ticket deals, during which 18 people were arrested.

It is not thought that Mr Phillips benefited financially from ticket allocations but FA officials believe that he did promise tickets to organisations that should not have received them under the rules governing Euro 96. Mr Phillips was not available for comment yesterday and is believed to have gone abroad on holiday.