Police Federation


Copestake, Podman, McGrath, Careless, Booth, Harrold, Callan

A group of courageous officers who exhibited unparalleled composure when faced with violent confrontation with hundreds of aggressive fans, armed with an array of weapons, have been nominated for the national Police Bravery Awards 2024.

Inspector Nick Booth, PC Matthew Copestake, PC Rebecca Callan, PC Adam Podam, PC Tammy Careless, PC Christopher Harrold, PC Ryan McGrath, and an officer who wishes to remain anonymous, have all been recognised for their professionalism.

On 30 November 2023, Derbyshire Police sent these eight officers amongst other officers to join the East Midlands Police Support Unit (PSU) on mutual aid to West Midlands Police to assist with the Aston Villa v Legia Warsaw match.

There was credible information Legia Warsaw fans would be looking for mass disorder and to attack police following on from similar behaviour in Holland at AZ Alkmaar two weeks earlier.

Early in the evening, serious disorder erupted, and the PSU was deployed on the front shield line right in the middle of the violence to ensure Legia fans could not get to the Aston Villa fans. 

Officers were attacked by around 200 fans with a multitude of weapons and missiles including drainpipes, branches, glass bottles, marine flares, wheelie bins, cones, and any other large items they could get their hands on. The clear intention of the crowd was to cause serious injury to police officers during what amounted to a riot.

The nominated officers remained calm and performed professionally throughout. Appropriate and proportionate force was used in response to the aggression received, and everyone worked brilliantly as a team for what was a sustained public order deployment over many hours. 

The actions of the officers prevented the Legia Warsaw fans breaking through the police lines and helped to keep the 27,000 Aston Villa fans safe from violence.

Had the officers failed to control this group, they would have been free to escape the containment, attack rival fans or cause further serious damage and disruption to the community. A group of around 40 Legia Warsaw fans were arrested for violent disorder.

The operation was large scale and officers worked with a range of partners including the ambulance service, the football club and stewards, traffic management companies and local businesses. 

PC Copestake received an injury to his hand which required hospital treatment due to the level of violence directed at his shield but has since recovered.

Derbyshire Police Federation Chair Tony Wetton said: “They, and other officers, on that night saw violence and disorder from Polish hooligans which was on a scale most have not experienced in their service. 

 “The body worn video footage shows the level of organisation and violence demonstrated by those visiting hooligans, and only the skill and bravery of those police officers prevented members of the public from suffering serious injury or worse. Branch Secretary Kirsty Bunn is looking forward to joining the officers at the awards evening in London in July.”

 Derbyshire Police Chief Superintendent Steve Wilson said: “This mutual aid deployment differs considerably from almost all that have gone before in terms of the levels of violence intentionally directed at the police by a very large group of foreign national risk supporters armed with potentially lethal weapons. The bravery of officers was clearly critical in successfully preventing the aggressive and determined hostile crowd in reaching the local fans, thus potentially preventing further serious injury and disorder.

“The disorder was so intense and widespread it attracted national and international media reporting the following day, with harrowing images of what the officers were faced with. Inspector Nick Booth, the serial commander, is a very experienced public officer with over 20 years in the role and described this as the worst violence he has ever seen.

“He provided a disturbing firsthand account of the hostile group, identically dressed akin to a uniform, with livery in the form of badges, being organised, disciplined with clear leadership to achieve their aim of attacking the police.”

Chief Inspector Tim Robinson, West Midlands Police, added: “As a result of the actions of Legia Warsaw fans we witnessed incidents of significant and sustained public disorder including directed assaults, missiles, and flares towards the police lines. Responding and overcoming this took bravery and resilience that, as Silver, I was incredibly proud to witness and bear testimony to.

“The response of officers on the ground was nothing short of exceptional and contributed significantly to managing the disorder, dispersing the crowds, and maintaining the King’s peace. My thanks to you all for these efforts.”



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