Truth is stranger than fiction, and sometimes the real world throw up headlines more ridiculous than can be one. Step forward Anthony Stallard, the hero of this story.
Mr Stallard had been drinking (as begins so many of our pieces) and, after a few, decided to go with some of his friends to the Kingston Cemetery in Portsmouth to play some football.
There were other people present (it’s not clear what time of the day was this) who were moved to complain to the police about Mr Stallard’s behaviour :
“The witnesses reported the group engaging in rowdy behaviour and one of them throwing their arms in the air and saying ‘woooooo’,” he said“
Mr Stallard was charged with criminal damage to a gravestone, but this was dropped. We’ve not idea what this related to. We do know that he was charged (and seemingly pleaded guilty to) one charge (we think) under s4A Public Order Act 1986 of using threatening, abusive or insulting words or behaviour with intent to cause harassment, alarm or distress.
Mr Stallard was fined a whopping £35 (which seems to indicate the seriousness of it in the eye of the magistrates) as well as the £20 Victim Surcharge and £20 costs.
What to make of it?
It’s a good headline. I find it hard to see how the offence is made out on the face of it. It’s unlikely that Mr Stallard was trying to upset other people, even if that was the effect. For that reason, a s5 charge would have been more appropriate (and it may be that that is what it actually was, news reports get it wrong sometime).
Even then, was this a necessary and proportionate use of state power? It doesn’t seem it to me on the face of it. This would be a classic case where it would have been in everyones interest for the police to ask Mr Stannard to calm it down and move him and his friends on to a more suitable football venue.
Maybe that happened, and if so, then apologies to the police. If it didn’t, then remembering that the actual cost of this to you and I is thousands and thousands of pounds, it may be that a more sensible approach could have been taken to this.