Paris police chief admits security failures during Champions League final

·3-min read

Paris's top police chief, Didier Lallement, on Thursday conceded his officers had catastrophically handled security around the Champions League final at the Stade de France on 28 May.

In the prelude to the match between Liverpool and Real Madrid, fans were forced to wait for hours in potentially lethal bottle necks and were tear-gassed as they tried to enter the stadium.

Gangs of criminals then preyed on them stealing money and jewellery as police stood by.

Giving evidence to a powerful panel of senior French politicians, Lallement conceded the night was a failure.

"It was a failure because people were pushed around and attacked," he told the French Senate commission.

"It's a failure because the image of the country was undermined."

Lallement and Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin have been under pressure since Madrid's 1-0 victory after the pair initially blamed the chaos on as many as 40,000 Liverpool fans at the stadium who they said were without tickets or with counterfeit tickets.

The figure has been widely disputed by witnesses and media using images from the ground.

Error

"Perhaps I made a mistake with the figure I gave to the minister," Lallement said.

He told the commission that he had based his estimate on the numbers of people using public transport and from feedback from the ground.

"I never claimed that it was absolutely accurate."

He admitted there were not 30-40,000 at the gates of the stadium but maintained that many thousands were in the vicinity of police checkpoints at the Stade de France to the north of the capital.

Scores of Liverpool supporters struggled to enter the stadium, leading the kick-off to be delayed by more than 30 minutes and crushes at the entry gates, where police fired teargas.

Fans also complained about bottlenecks leading up to the stadium created by police. Lallement said the checkpoints were anti-terror measures.

The government's initial decision to blame Liverpool fans for the problems caused tensions between France and Britain.

Questions have also been raised about the capacity of Parisian officials to organise the rugby World Cup next year and the Olympic Games in 2024.

Tear gas

Lallement said he was sorry for authorising the use of tear gas to move supporters away from the stadium before the game, which affected mostly Liverpool fans including children and people with reduced mobility.

"We needed to get people to move back," Lallement explained. "We asked people to move back, then we used tear-gas ... it's the only way to our knowledge of moving a crowd back, except for a baton charge."

His decisions that night had saved lives. "I would do the same thing again," he told the commission.

"The line running through my actions is to avoid people dying."

On a more more conciliatory note, Lallement encouraged supporters from Liverpool and Real Madrid to file complaints if they were victims of counterfeited tickets or street crime outside the stadium.

Around 300-400 petty criminals were outside the stadium, Lallement estimated, with many fans reporting being robbed or physically assaulted as they left the game.

Steve Rotheram, the Mayor of Liverpool, is expected to give evidence to the Senate commission on Thursday.

He was among hundreds of Liverpool fans who lost their possessions to pickpockets.

"People's memories will forever be tarred by the lack of organisation and heavy-handed policing, and then of course the way authorities tried to deflect blame and scapegoat Liverpool fans for their incompetence," he said.

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