Is it illegal to play football on the pavement?

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standard_bum | 23:26 Mon 21st Jun 2010 | Law
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My lad (12) was issed with a stop-search slip by a community officer on Sunday for playing football on the pavement of a non-busy street in Birmingham. On the ticket it actually states anti-social behaviour which would obviously cover a load of things. He was told that if he was seen playing football again on the pavement then his ball would be confiscated. He was actually told by an police officer a few weeks earlier that it wasn't a problem so it's a little confusing...

He is a very respectful lad towards others so he wouldn't have "back chatted" the officer.

Is this just a case of a jobs worth community officer who's too big for his boots and I should complain about it?
Can he play football on the pavement?
Does this ticket actually mean anything? Could it come back to bite him on the bum if he gets another?
Are they allowed to confiscate the ball and if so, how would I get it back?

I have obviously told him not to play there again but this has miffed me a bit..


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The Highways Act 1980, Section 161(3) states:
"If a person plays at football or any other game on a highway to the annoyance of a user of the highway he is guilty of an offence and liable to a fine not exceeding level 1 on the standard scale".

The definition of a a 'highway' includes public footpaths. 'Level 1', on the standard scale of fines is currently £200.

Whenever anyone is stopped and/or searched in the street the police are obliged to make a written record of it and to offer a copy of that record to the person involved. It's not a 'warning' or anything similar. (Over 100,000 people per year are stopped and searched, under anti-terrorism powers, in London. Nearly all of them are totally innocent of any offence but they will have all received a written record of the stop/search).

Police can confiscate property which is being used in the commission of an offence but they'd be obliged to return your son's ball to you unless a court ordered its destruction (which is extremely unlikely!).

Question Author
just to reiterate - they were playing on the pavement and not in the street... which makes a huge difference....

and someone may have complained but surely if they are doing nothing wrong then no action can be taken against them...
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thanks Buenchico - I think our responses crossed :)
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This was acutally a community officer - do they have the powers to confiscate?
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To the best of my knowledge, a community officer would need to keep your son with him while he waited for a police officer to attend, in order to confiscate the ball. (PCSOs can't arrest anyone but they can hold them for up to 40 minutes pending the arrival of a police officer).

However that information will have to remain unchecked for the moment, as I'm off to bed. (Yawn!).

Goodnight all.
Chris – as always – is quite correct about the Highways Act specifically banning the playing of games on the highway.

The “highway” has a wide interpretation and does not just mean the road. It usually includes associated footpaths and verges and would certainly be interpreted in such a manner if prosecutions under this particular act were challenged. The idea of the law is to prevent annoyance to other users of the highway and this would obviously include pedestrians using the pavement.

Moving on from this, playing football can (and has been) interpreted as an anti-social act and could lead to action being taken under the Crime and Disorder Act which provides for Acceptable Behaviour Commitments to be agreed or, in the extreme, ASBOs being applied for. Different areas of the country view the matter differently however, and not all police forces pursue the issue with equal gusto. I have noticed items in the press are appearing more frequently of late reporting where action has been taken such as you describe.

It seems that somebody in the area must have complained to the police to spur them on to take the action they have. I think parents need to understand that to some residents, having football played outside your front door is extremely irritating. Having to be constantly vigilant to see if your car or garden is damaged is very wearing and this is being recognised as a problem by the police.
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Complete madness.....I feel sorry for the kids today.
No wonder the national team is rubbish at football.
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It seems this has now turned into a debate so I’ll join in.

It is true that in many areas children choose to play football in the street rather than on designated playing fields (which are often very close by). Anyone who has suffered football being played outside their house night after night (especially at this time of year when it can go on until 10pm) will tell you that it is extremely annoying and irritating. Since such behaviour is contrary to the law the police have been asked to address the problem. They are not harassing children for being children, but seeking to stop behaviour that clearly adversely effects a number of people.

If parents are concerned that their children may become victims of paedophiles if they play football on the local rec (and I would suggest that such likelihood is far less than imagined) then they can easily arrange for one of them to accompany the children to the rec whilst they play. If they are unwilling or unable to do this they are not entitled to allow their children to annoy others. Whilst Eddie is quite right in what he says, I think the idea that Mums are constantly peering through the net curtains to check on their little cherubs is a little fanciful. They are far more likely to be comfortably and quietly ensconced in their lounge watching Eastenders or Corrie whilst their offspring annoy some other poor soul farther up the street.

I hope the attempt to relate the England football team’s dismal performances with this issue was tongue in cheek. England has a very good Rugby Union team – perhaps not quite so good as it was just a few years ago but nonetheless a side which can hold its own with the top teams in the world – but I cannot ever recall seeing Rugby being practised in the road outside my house.
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Excellent... thank you everyone for their contribution to this.... and answering my questions...
As one of the unfortunate ones to have youths playing football outside my house/on my lawn/hitting my car, I felt the need to reply. It IS annoying, so much so that after only several months I feel I have to move. Outnumbered and victimised by the parents of these "little cherubs". When I asked the Police for guidance they said "we don't want to criminalise children do we?" These children have a nice quiet cul de sac to play in, but would much rather play outside my house, and to top it all my neighbour opposite has just purchased a 7ft football net for them use for practise. He wont put it in his garden though, oh no, on the pavement directly across from my house.
If the 'community officer' was a was actually a PCSO, they can be designated the power to confiscate stuff, usually alcohol and tobacco from under age persons.

Powers Vary with forces.... Most have the above though...

I think the threat of confiscating the ball is something of an empty threat, however yes you would be able to get it back (though not the alcohol or fags if that was the case).

The ticket will actually be a stop account/stop search form, your son will not have been searched unless there was something else that you are not being told, police cannot indescribably search people.

The form issued will actually be a used to record a stop account, which the PC/PCSO was at the time you made your inquiry obliged to issue to anyone who is asked to account for their actions/presence - it came out of the Stephen Lawrence Enq. The minimum needed to be recorded is Name, DOB, and ethnicity. However other things are recorded as a matter of course - i.e. reason for encounter.

This form is placed on record, but is not a criminal record and will not bite him on the bum later. If your son starts to get vast numbers of these forms for consitantly being in the wrong place wrong time, when should be in school, in possesion of alc etc i would expect a knock at the door to discuss it, but it is not going to affect his chances of employment/college/uni etc.

Work with your local PCSOs, why dont want to move the kids on playing, kids playing isnt a crime, however the damage that CAN occur is however and therin lies the problem.

why do kids want to play in the street when there is a park 3 to 5 minutes away.
if they do want to play in the street why cant they use a soft ball, not a hard leather ball which reshapes your car.
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The nearest park is full of needles and "roughy uns" and there was recently a fatal stabing there. I certainy don't want my lad playing anywhere near that park.

Also, 12 year old kids like to play with real balls not fly-aways and there was no cars parked where he was playing. If there was, he wouldn't have played there.
What about playing football on the car park? Is it legal or not? thanks in advice for help

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