Statement On Protest Flyovers At Headingley Cricket Ground.
Monday, July 8, 2019
Chief Superintendent Steve Cotter, Leeds District Commander, said: “We want to make our position clear following the two recent incidents at Headingley cricket ground where light aircraft carrying protest messages flew over during international matches, as we feel our involvement in the situation has been misrepresented.
“In our democratic society people have the legal right to protest, and a balance always needs to be struck between that right and the rights and freedoms of others to go about their lawful business.
“West Yorkshire Police has a long-standing record of successfully managing peaceful, lawful protest and does this in line with national guidance and legislation.
“We had no prior knowledge of the initial flyovers on either occasion but when they were brought to our attention during the matches, we assessed the content of the messages as being free speech that did not constitute any criminal offence.
“We also liaised with air traffic control who confirmed that the flights were legitimate and in keeping with their regulations for this controlled airspace.
“As such, no assurances were given by us to the International Cricket Council that any further flights would be prevented, nor would we have had any legal basis for doing so.
“We are also satisfied that the disorder that occurred at the match between Pakistan and Afghanistan, which remains under investigation, was not linked to the flyovers. At the match between India and Sri Lanka officers in the ground noted that there was no discernible adverse reaction from the crowd to the flyovers that took place then.
“We worked very closely with the Yorkshire County Cricket Club and the International Cricket Council to ensure that everyone attending these events could have a safe and enjoyable time and we will continue to put appropriate policing plans in place for any future high-profile sporting events while at the same time respecting people’s right to protest.”