Paris Police Chief apologises for pepper spraying Liverpool fans at Champions League final

The Paris Police Chief has apologised for pepper spraying Liverpool fans at the Champions League final - but claims it was justified in the circumstances.

Thousands of fans were crushed and tear-gassed by French police outside the Stade de France before Real Madrid’s 1-0 win against Liverpool on Saturday, 28 May.

The game was delayed by more than half an hour as fans were trapped outside the stadium.

At a French Senate hearing looking into the chaotic scenes Paris police prefect Didier Lallement admitted it was “obviously a failure, because people were being pushed around or assaulted while we owed them safety.

"It's also a failure because our country's image... was shattered."

Thousands of fans were held by police as officials checked for fake tickets. Credit: AP

But Lallement maintained police were responding to the presence of tens of thousands of supporters without tickets or with forged tickets, not in the immediate vicinity of the stadium but close to the the main points of access to the venue.

"We made sure that the game was held and, most importantly, that there were no serious injuries and no deaths," Lallement said.

Lallement told the French Senate he maintained the way the police had responded was their 'only option'.

The chief took full responsibility for the events, and said he did not anticipate the "massive use" of fake tickets.

He added that the only option, to make sure people did not get crushed, was the use of tear gas.

"Which is the only way to make a crowd back down except to charge them, and I think it would have been a serious mistake to charge people," Lallement said.

"I am well aware that people of good faith were gassed, and I am totally sorry for that, but I repeat, there was no other way."

Lallement told the hearing his early estimate of 30,000 to 40,000 fans without tickets or with fake tickets might have been overstated.

"Perhaps I was wrong," he said. "Whether there were 40,000, 30,000 or 20,000, it didn’t change the fact that there were tens of thousands of people who could not fit in."

UEFA has launched an independent review into the access issues that led to supporters being crushed and tear-gassed by police, and  apologised to all spectators “who had to experience or witness frightening and and distressing events” in the build-up to the final.

Many fans - including the region’s mayor Steve Rotheram - were also targeted by thieves outside the stadium.

According to Lallement, 300 to 400 individuals took part in theft and damage.

He said during his nearly two-hour grilling that unaccompanied minors were among them, but could not tell whether groups came from the Seine-Saint-Denis department, an impoverished area with high crime rates.

"There were 300 or 400 people who did not seem to be fans," he said. "I don’t know if they were people from the housing estates around the stadium.

"Is this a type of delinquent population that we meet in Seine-Saint-Denis? Yes, it happens, but we also meet them in the north of Paris."

French Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin said the violence was made possible because the police officers initially deployed in the area between the stadium and the train station were moved closer to the stadium’s gates to help disperse fans, leaving that zone without surveillance.

Lallement agreed with the theory and said his decision to remove a filtration barrier to avoid a congestion of spectators allowed "undesirable" individuals to approach the stadium.

He urged fans and supporters who were assaulted or purchased fake tickets to file legal complaints.

An online form has appeared on the French Embassy's website for supporters to register the crimes against them.

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