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Police operation to keep apart fans at Wolves game a 'failure'

Staffordshire | News | Published:

The police operation to keep sets of rival football fans apart ahead of a Wolves match last year was a failure, a defence barrister has told a jury.

Mr Ecky Tiwana told Wolverhampton Crown Court the police exercise during the Wolves against Leeds match on February 9 last year was an 'operational failure'.

Mr Tiwana was speaking during the trial of six Wolves fans for affray following clashes between the two sets of fans after the game.

Pc Brent Swarbrick, a specially trained member of West Midland Police's operational support unit, was part of the police presence that day, and told the court he saw Benjamin Richardson, of Pebble Close, Stourbridge, throwing a punch at a Leeds fan before the game.

The 26-year-old denies affray, along with five other men aged between 18 and 40.

Pc Swarbrick said he and a colleague had also spoke to Richardson outside the Moon Under Water pub in Lichfield Street earlier that day.

He said: "The bottom of the road is where the away fans were walking towards the Molineux.

"There was a group of fans generally shouting and gesticulating towards the Leeds fans, who were also doing this as well.

"Benjamin Richardson was a member of that group. He was a member of that element that were intent on creating disorder and was shouting at Leeds fans."

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Mr Tiwana told the court that PC Swarbrick's unit of officers formed a baseline, separating Leeds fans from the Wolves fans and pushing them down Lichfield Street away from the Leeds United fans, but were then called away from the area.

He said they were called to the Kwik Fit on Stafford Street, as a number of coaches carrying Leeds fans were due to arrive.

Mr Tiwana told the court he believed it would have made more sense for the police to escort the Leeds fans arriving at the train station to the ground.

He said: "That day, I am suggesting, was an operational failure.

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"This was a bit of a botch up. You have got people being pushed to the north end of the city, where Leeds fans are coming from both directions."

CCTV was also shown of trouble flaring before the match, where police could be seen to punch some of the fans.

He added: "The only people using violence in those stills are police officers."

Benjamin Richardson is on trial with Jordan Banks, 18, of Peach Road, Willenhall; Ricky Bates, 27, of Church Street, Tipton; Ryan Richardson, 30, of Ambleside Close, Bradley; Nicholas Smith, 40, of Alder Road, Wednesbury, and Nicholas Ward, 39, of Foxwood Road, Birchmoor, in Tamworth.

All of them deny affray.

The trial continues.

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