Journalists win open justice argument and gain access to footage of racist Chelsea fans in Paris

Video footage showing the activities of Chelsea Football Club fans who racially abused and pushed a black commuter in Paris was released to the media following an application by journalists.

District Judge Gareth Branston, sitting at Stratford Magistrates Court in east London, dismissed objections from a barrister representing one of the fans.

The footage (below, from The Guardian), showing Paris commuter Souleymane Sylla being shoved off the Metro train amid chants of "we're racist, we're racist, and that's the way we like it", was widely published before the case got to court – which led to the Metropolitan Police applying to the court for football banning orders against at least five men.

Journalists reporting the case asked for access to the footage of the incident, and to "walkabout" footage of Chelsea fans in Paris before the match, which captured two of the accused men, one of whom was seen in a violent confrontation with a Parisian.

But barrister Alison Gurden, who representing Jordan Munday, one of the men given a football banning order, opposed the application, arguing that publishing the footage could be an intrusion into privacy as it also showed other Chelsea fans who could suffer reputational damage through association.

 District Judge Branston dismissed these fears, and stressed the central role of open justice plays in the courts.

"Open justice is the principle at the heart of our system, and is vital to the rule of law," he said.

"It lets in the light and allows the public to scrutinise the law."

When applying for the footage, taken when Chelsea fans were in the French capital to watch the club's Champions League match against Paris St Germain on 17 February, journalists had stressed that it formed the central element of the case and were essential to allow the media to tell the story fully.

The case, they argued, was of huge public interest, and highlighted issues of football hooliganism and racism.

In addition, the footage had been shown in open court, and therefore should be made available to be viewed by the public more widely through press and broadcast reports.

District Judge Branston said previous cases showed that when documents were placed before the judge and played in open court "the default position is that they should be disclosed".

He went on: "In this case I am certainly satisfied that the principles of open justice requires me to order the release to the papers of the footage that has been shown during the course of this case.

"In my judgement the fact it has been shown in open court makes it even more compelling.

"I'm certainly satisfied the media have a serious journalistic purpose in reporting on the behaviour of fans of English football teams abroad."

Gurden told the court she had been contacted by many Chelsea fans who feared that they were on the footage and that "they may well suffer, particularly in relation to employment" if it was shown publicly.

But District Judge Branston said the privacy rights of those caught in the footage did not come into play because they would have been aware they were being filmed – both by public CCTV cameras and police "spotters".

He added: "Many of the people shown in the footage were perfectly orderly.

"Those who behaved in a disorderly manner can have no complaint when their disorderly actions are shown."

The court made football banning orders against four men.

Human rights activist and former policeman Richard Barklie, 50, former finance worker Josh Parsons, 20, and William Simpson, 26, were all issued with football banning orders for five years for their role in the disturbances. Fellow fan Jordan Munday, 20, was banned from football matches for three years. A fifth man, Dean Callis, 32, of Islington, north London, had earlier received a five-year banning order.

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