Politics: Tories seek new curbs on hooligans

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The Independent Online
PLANS TO crack down on football hooligans do not go far enough, the Conservatives told the House of Commons last night. They called for new Football Behaviour Orders to prevent hooligans from going to matches abroad.

Debating the report stage of the Crime and Disorder Bill, Sir Norman Fowler, shadow home affairs spokesman, welcomed proposals to widen the powers of police and the courts. But he claimed violence in Marseilles highlighted deficiencies in the existing legislation.

"Over the last five years there have been 20,000 convictions for football offences, but only 71 restriction orders. We need to do more if we are to have a realistic prospect of dealing with these people," he said.

The Government's proposals will give police new powers to arrest anyone suspected of breaching an order preventing them from going to matches in this country.

They will have increased powers to keep convicted troublemakers away from important matches by making them report to police stations. Labour has also proposed raising the penalty for breaching such an order from one to six months.

Mr Fowler insisted that although no system could hope to exclude every football hooligan from travelling abroad, the present system was not working effectively enough. He wanted to introduce legislation to allow police to go to court when they had "reasonable cause to believe that an order was necessary to prevent an individual" from causing trouble abroad.

He proposed an amendment calling for: greater obligation for courts to grant restriction orders on convicted hooligans abroad; wider powers for the police to apply for restriction orders; convicted offenders to pay for the damage that they cause.

The Home Secretary, Jack Straw, said it was unlikely that such moves could be introduced before the end of the World Cup. Proposals for a football supporters' order and the automatic imposition of restriction orders could not be put into legislation "at this stage".

Mr Straw echoed his opponent's condemnation of the fans' conduct, saying that everyone was "angry as well as shocked to see the behaviour of a small number of supporters in Marseilles".

But he rejected calls to impose restrictions on convicted hooligans. He said the Government was wary of imposing automatic sentences on specific crimes, as it did not want to take away powers from the courts.