EGMR: Grand Chamber to examine case concerning detention of football supporters to prevent hooligan violence

The Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights to which the case S. and Others v. Denmark (application nos. 35553/12, 36678/12, and 36711/12) had been allocated has relinquished jurisdiction in favour of the Grand Chamber of the Court. The applicants, football supporters who were detained by the Danish police prior to a match in order to prevent hooligan violence, complain that their preventive police custody had been unlawful.

Principal facts

The applicants, S., V., and A. are Danish nationals who were born in 1989, 1982, and 1982 respectively.

On 10 October 2009, the applicants were in Copenhagen to watch a football match between Denmark and Sweden. The Danish police were aware that hooligan groups from each country were travelling to the city and planning to fight each other. Therefore, plans were made to charge or detain the instigators of fights in order to prevent further clashes. During the afternoon, the first big fight started between Danish and Swedish spectators which resulted in five or six people being arrested, including Mr V. and Mr A. Subsequently, elsewhere, other spectators were arrested including Mr S. The applicants were each detained for approximately eight hours. However, they were not charged with any criminal offence. In total 138 spectators were arrested, of whom half were charged with various criminal offences.

The applicants brought compensation proceedings before the Danish courts alleging that their detention had been unlawful, because it had been preventive and exceeded six hours, which was the time-limit provided for under the relevant domestic law for detention in order to avert a danger or disturbance of public order. Their request was refused by the City Court in Aarhus in November 2010, which held that the overrunning of the time-limit had been justified in the circumstances (given the extent, duration and organised nature of the disturbances) and that, in any case, the wording of the relevant domestic law set out that detention should not exceed six hours, only to the extent that this was possible. This decision was subsequently upheld on appeal by the High Court and leave to appeal to the Supreme Court was ultimately refused in December 2011.

Complaints and procedure

The applicants complain that their detention was unlawful as it had exceeded the time-limit prescribed by domestic law, and notably that it had not been justified under Article 5 §§ 1 b) or c) (right to liberty and security) of the European Convention of Human Rights.

The applications were lodged with the European Court of Human Rights on 8 June 2012.

They were communicated to the Danish Government, with a question from the Court, on 7 January 2014. A statement of facts submitted to the Government is available on the Court’s website.

The Chamber to which the case had been allocated relinquished jurisdiction in favour of the Grand Chamber on 11 July 2017.

EGMR, Pressemitteilung v. 17.07.2017