Football fans taken off records

Statewatch bulletin, July-August 1996, vol 6 no 4

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Gwilym and Rhys Boore, the two Welsh football fans, who have been fighting for six years to clear their names and get themselves removed from police records have succeeded (see Statewatch vol 3 no 2, vol 4 no 5, vol 5 no 5). The Belgian authorities say they are not on their records and the UK's National Criminal Intelligence Service (NCIS) said the same last year.

In a letter to their lawyer, Liberty's Philip Leach, the European Commission said in a letter that:

"the Belgian authorities indicate that... they are in a position to confirm that no data concerning the identities of the Boore brothers are listed on either national or Schengen computerised systems."

The brothers had ended up on a series of computer systems after they were taken off a train and had their identity checked in Arlon, on the Belgium-Luxembourg border, in November 1990. The Luxembourg police had then sent a report to the NCIS in the UK saying they had, with others, "caused disorder en route" - which was quite erroneous. On 6 November 1992 the NCIS had supplied the Belgian police with a list of 151 names of "suspected" Welsh football fans and when the Belgian police "checked" a train at Kortrijk station on 16 November the Boore brothers were picked out. Rhys Boore was held for 16 hours, strip-searched and deported in handcuffs.

A complaint to the Belgian Police Complaints Authority was rejected in October 1995 but it did confirm that their names had been removed from police records. The latest letter confirms that they have been removed from all Belgian and Schengen records.

However it has also transpired that their names found their way onto the UK Foreign Office Consular Department's "database" and it is not known to who they may have passed the names.

On behalf of the Boore brothers Liberty has also made a complaint against the European Commission to the European Ombudsman on the grounds that the Commission wanted to close the case before satisfactory replies had been received from the UK and Belgian governments.

The brothers six year campaign involved lobbying the Home Office, Foreign Office, NCIS, South Wales police, the Data Protection Registrar, the UK embassy in Brussels, the Belgian and Luxembourg embassies in London, the Belgian police, the Belgian Ministries of Justice and Interior and the European Commission. "We spent our lives going round in circles", commented Gwilym Boore who added on Europol: "God help anyone whose name gets put on it by mistake."

Letter from the European Commission,9.7.96; Comments by the Commission concerning a request for information by the European Ombudsman, 21.5.96; Comments by Liberty concerning the Commission's reply to the European Ombudsman, 1.7.96.

Football supporters' complaints not upheld but European Ombudsman sets up inquiry

Statewatch bulletin, January-February 1997, vol 7 no 1

The European Ombudsman has set up an "own-initiative inquiry" into the way that the European Commission handles complaints regarding Article 169 of the Treaty on the European Community (TEC). Mr Soderman says:

"it appears that the procedure currently used by the Commission causes considerable dissatisfaction amongst European citizens. The procedure appears not to promote the degree of transparency which European citizens increasingly expect in the functioning of Community institutions and bodies."

The Ombudsman found that there "is no evidence of maladministration" on the part of the Commission on four complaints lodged by Liberty on behalf of Alun, Rhys and Gwilym Boore - three Welsh football fans who found themselves caught up in a bizarre series of events which involved trying to get their names removed from police databases in the UK and Belgium (see Statewatch, vol 3 no 2, vol 4 no 5, vol 5 no 5, vol 6 no 4). The Ombudsman's conclusion states:

"The Commission has obtained both from the UK and Belgium assurances that the rights of the complainants to free movement will be respected.."

In a useful precedent Liberty had sought to get the European Commission to open infringement proceedings against the UK and Belgium under Article 169 of the EC Treaty.

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