Thousands of British soccer fans heading to the World Cup in Germany later this year will for the first time be accompanied by prosecutors able to build legal cases against hooligans, officials said Thursday.
In 2004, British courts refused to impose banning orders based solely on their convictions in Portugal at the European Championship. In Germany, British police with experience at securing banning orders will work with official prosecutors who will gather evidence that can be used in English courts.
"We will use evidence collected in Germany to make sure any English fans who cause trouble there will receive a football banning order when they return home," Nick Hawkins, the Chief crown prosecutor for soccer issues, said. "This initiative solves the legal complications which prevented action being taken against trouble makers returning from previous tournaments abroad."
Nearly 80 British police officers will also be at the tournament. British Home Secretary Charles Clarke said negotiations with German authorities on security during the tournament began two years ago in a bid to ensure no repeat of the violence England fans caused at the 2000 European Championship in Belgium and the Netherlands.
"I have this week formally agreed key areas of cooperation with my German counterpart, including the role of British uniformed police officers, as part of a package of measures to provide maximum support to the home nation," Clarke said.
"These are unprecedented measures that reflect the government's commitment to ensuring that this year's World Cup is a positive experience for the anticipated 10,000 traveling England fans and for the host nation."
Assistant chief constable Stephen Thomas, who is heading the police operation, said 29 British officers would help police on the German railways and 13 would be at German airports. Four will become temporary members of the German federal police.
"They will have powers," Thomas said. "They will be sworn in as auxiliary German police officers but their powers will be limited to the railway system and the airports."
In return, a small team of German officers will police British ports and airports as England fans head to the tournament.
Clarke said the reputation of England fans - once considered the worst in the world - had improved since 2000, largely due to court orders that ban hooligans from traveling. More than 3,200 people will be banned from traveling to Germany.
At the 2004 European Championship in Portugal, there were 52 arrests of England fans for violence in the Algarve region. None were arrested at the 2002 World Cup in Japan and South Korea; at Euro 2000, 945 people were arrested for soccer violence, and more than 800 arrested at the 1998 World Cup in France.
Clarke said references to Germany's Nazi past would be dealt with severely.
"The reason why the German parliament passed this law was because that the era we're talking about was one of total horror and destruction in Germany," he said. "It is not a joke. It is not a comic thing to do and I would say to anybody who thinks it might be rather entertaining to get involved in this kind of insult, it is not."