Before he was old enough to sit in the stands him and his sister were put in the Chelsea crèche. His Dad went to his first Chelsea match at aged 8 years old. His mother has been an active fan for near on 40 years.
He is autistic with a multiplicity of learning difficulties, Chelsea football team is his life. College is not easy for him. Social contact is hard. His is a lonely life apart from his family. Chelsea fc is his life. What we regard as normal is an impossibility for him. His knowledge of money or mathematics is non-existent, but he can get himself to a Chelsea game, arranging his own transport has become an obsession as long as Chelsea football team is at the end of the journey. A true blue member, no game is too far away, the games, the team, are his life.
The summer months are barren for him, spending hours meticulously planning trips to friendly and pre-season games and even more hours scouring the internet for every shred of team news and watching replays of past matches.
It is only in the past year that he has begun to go to games on his own; he craves independence and desperately wants to meet fans, other fans his own age. Outwardly, he looks and acts like a normal 18 year old. The most obvious outward sign of his autism are his non-existent social skills, and yet he wants to “be normal” and fit in with others. His pronounced learning difficulties have contributed to his social awkwardness. His entire existence is devoted to Chelsea, and Stamford Bridge is the only place that he feels like he is part of something.
He missed the recent West Ham game through a thoughtless act on his part. Undoubtedly influenced by the flares that have become common in European matches, he bought two flares for £13 from a web site called Away Games Pyrotechnics. Without the foresight of consequences that you and I enjoy, with or without a drink, he was caught in the Olympic Park with the two flares. As he told the police candidly it was his intention to let them off when Chelsea scored. He wanted the team to feel supported.
16 hours later, terrified and traumatised by his ordeal he was released from custody to appear in Court on 21 March. On that day he will be punished as he should be, but should he be banned for the statutory minimum of three years from attending football matches – it will be for him a sentence far more severe than for most, the only light in his difficult life will flicker out.
Every court has a prerogative of mercy and that will be my plea for him. I would like to be able to tell the court that the supporters of Chelsea fc as members of the public and in whose interests banning orders are generally imposed, join with me on this very unusual and exceptional occasion in a plea not to ban a very special and dedicated fan.
David Hislop QC, who is representing the lad has asked if this matter could be referred to all who may wish to write a letter of support and he would be very grateful if they can be sent to him at firstname.lastname@example.org before the case goes to court on March 21st.
David Hislop QC
David Hislop QC a practising criminal barrister at Doughty Street Chambers agreed to take on this case pro bono because it was a very special Chelsea fan in real need.