Sussex Police could be in contempt of court if it fails to respond to Crystal Palace fans over why it claimed supporters had ‘knives and knuckledusters’ at a Brighton and Hove Albion game.
And the force says it ‘fully intends to comply’ with a notice which gives it 35 days to respond to fans – or face contempt of court.
In December 2017, Five Year Fanzine, a Crystal Palace fan site, launched Freedom of Information (FoI) requests asking why Sussex Police claimed Palace fans had brought weapons to a game at the Amex Stadium on November 28, 2017.
Sussex Police later admitted this claim was false and apologised, but did not explain why the statements were made.
At the time, police said: “The reference to weapons being found discarded at the stadium following the Brighton v Crystal Palace match on November 28 was based on information logged by our officers on the night and done so in good faith. Subsequently, it has been established that no such items were physically recovered at the stadium or in the city. We accept that this information was incorrect and the tweet published earlier today by one of our officers was wrong.
“Sussex Police apologises to both clubs and their supporters.”
The FoI requests from Palace fans sought to establish the number of arrests at the match relating to the possession of weapons, the number of weapons Sussex Police recovered at the stadium, how many weapons Brighton and Hove Albion recovered and reported to the police, and whether there was any communication about weapons discovered by the police or club at the match.
Now, the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) said Sussex Police could be in contempt of court if it fails to respond to the Palace fans’ FoI request or offer a valid refusal notice.
The report from ICO was published on Wednesday (August 22), and said Sussex Police must respond in 35 days.
Sussex Police said: “FOI requests in relation to policing of the match were received in December last year. Sussex Police responded to these and in doing so explained that some of the information sought had already been placed in the public domain by Sussex Police in the form of press releases.
“An internal review by the force under the Act was then sought in relation to some information which we refused to supply under the Act. We regret there has been delay in completing this review.
“We fully intend to comply with the ICO Decision Notice by responding to the specific FOI applicant within the timescale required, with the outcome of that internal review. If the applicant is dissatisfied with the outcome it will be open to them to appeal to the ICO.”