New law to stop suspected hooligans travelling

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Police are to be given new powers to ban suspected football hooligans from leaving the country, even if they have not been convicted of a criminal offence.

Police are to be given new powers to ban suspected football hooligans from leaving the country, even if they have not been convicted of a criminal offence.

Jack Straw, the Home Secretary, told Parliament yesterday that the Government was determined "to use all the means at our disposal to get rid once and for all of the obnoxious taint of football hooliganism".

Under the proposals, police would be able to arrest suspected hooligans at portsand airports or issue themwith a court summons in the period prior to an international game. Suspicion would be sufficient cause, and officers would then present evidence to magistrates, asking for a court order banning the individuals from leaving the country and forcing them to surrender their passports. Mr Straw said: "It would not be necessary that the person in question should have been convicted of a football-related offence or indeed of any offence."

The proposals angered civil liberty campaigners. John Wadham, director of Liberty, said the proposals "risked undermining the presumption of innocence".

He said: "The logic of 'We know he's guilty but we can't prove it' should ring alarm bells for anyone who cares about justice and fairness."

A spokesman for the National Criminal Intelligence Service, which monitors football hooliganism, warned that police would not be prepared to disclose evidence to the courts which might compromise informants. But he said there could be occasions when police had photographic evidence that might be enough to secure a banning order from the court.

The NCIS spokesman welcomed the new powers but called for hooligans to have their passports stamped so they could be more easily identified by border officials. He said such an idea could be extended to child-sex tourists.

The anti-hooligan package includes a clarification of existing banning orders, with Mr Straw announcing that all fans banned from attending domestic football will be prevented from attending international games, and forced to surrender their passports while high-profile matches are being played overseas.

The Home Secretary's aim is to end the confusion between domestic bans, which apply to 400 people, and international bans which affect 106 hooligans - currently the only people who can be barred from going abroad.

Mr Straw said violence in Charleroi and Brussels during the Euro 2000 tournament last month had "shamed England's national game and England's national reputation".

A draft Bill be made available by the end of the week with a view to getting it on the statute book before the Commons summer recess, which begins on 28 July - ahead of England's next international match against France on 2 September.

Adam Crozier, chief executive of the Football Association, said: "This legislation has been required for a long time and we hope it comes to a speedy and successful conclusion."

The shadow Home Secretary, Ann Widdecombe, said the Tories would help get the Bill through on an accelerated timetable but said it would require "thorough scrutiny".

It is likely to face fierce opposition in the House of Lords, however. Lord Phillips of Sudbury described the proposals as "legislative hooliganism".