A JUDGE has shown a red card to football hooligans and warned if they come back before him they face jail.
District Judge Nigel Broderick was speaking at Ballymena Magistrates Court thi following incidents at a televised Irish Cup Quarter-Final match between Larne and Coleraine earlier this year.
The court heard a section of fans chanted offensive abuse from the stands and a banner was also in place which made reference to “refugees”.
Derogatory comments towards a player included remarks like “f*cking Roman Catholic c*nt”.
The details emerged as four Coleraine fans were sentenced after previously each admitting a charge of being disorderly at an Irish Cup Quarter-Final match involving Coleraine away to Larne which Coleraine won 5-3 in March.
A prosecution bid to have Football Banning Orders imposed on the the quartet failed.
The four in court on Thursday were: Darryl James Stirling (27), of Taylors Row, Coleraine; Aaron Knight (26), of Glebe Avenue, Coleraine; Christopher Robert John Boreland (22), of Lakeside Court, Coleraine and Rhys Hutchinson (20), of Farranseer Park, Macosquin.
Previously at Ballymena Magistrates Court, Barry Hegarty (34), of Shell Hill Court, Coleraine; Adam Lee Rankin (28), of Loguestown Green, Coleraine and Christopher Cunning (22), of Kilraughts Road, Ballymoney, were each fined £500 for being disorderly at the match.
At another court sitting David Edgar (23) and Jack Gault (21), both with addresses at Dundooan Park in Coleraine, had disorderly behaviour charges withdrawn when they accepted cautions.
Another defendant – Matthew Montgomery (21), of Dunboe Gardens, Articlave – has yet to be sentenced because he is in hospital.
Three of the men – Rankin, Stirling and Hutchinson – had originally also faced a second charge of displaying written material which was ‘threatening, abusive or insulting, intending thereby to stir up hatred or arouse fear’ but that charge was withdrawn against all three.
A prosecutor said Darryl Stirling was pushing and shoving stewards who were trying to remove a banner which made reference to “refugees”.
The court heard comments made by Aaron Knight included calling a player a “smelly ginger b*stard” and a “f*cking Roman Catholic c*unt” which the prosecutor said was being treated as a sectarian hate crime.
Knight had a previous football related conviction involving a flare at a Coleraine versus Ballymena match and had also been given two fixed penalty notices for disorderly behaviour at other Coleraine games.
The prosecutor said Boreland’s conduct at the Larne match included attempting to climb onto the pitch and Hutchinson’s activities at the Inver Park game included howling abuse at a player.
The court heard Hutchinson had been given an informed warning following a match between Coleraine and Cliftonville in 2016 and he has also been disorderly following a Coleraine versus Linfield game in 2018.
Judge Broderick asked if the football club had taken any action against “these so-called fans” and he read from a letter from Coleraine FC Chairman Colin McKendry which said the club has a “zero tolerance” policy as part of their Code of Conduct.
The judge was also given a letter from the ‘Spirit of 74’ Coleraine Supporters Club which he said seemed to be encouraging the defendants to become involved with them so members could “keep an eye on them”.
A defence lawyer said there was an “element of re-education” involved.
A lawyer for Knight handed in a reference from an un-named Coleraine businessman in relation to the defendant.
The lawyer said “verbal comments were over the top” and added: “Fans will try anything to put a goalkeeper off but this went too far”.
Boreland’s legal representative said the defendant had been intoxicated and accepted “vulgar and unpleasant” language had been used.
Hutchinson’s lawyer said a disorderly behaviour conviction was in relation to an incident when he left a football match in 2018.
Stirling was ordered to do 150 hours of Community Service; Knight was put on Probation for six months and given 150 hours of Community Service; Boreland was given a five months jail term suspended for two years; and Hutchinson was put on Probation for six months and bound over to keep the peace for two years in the sum of £300.
Judge Broderick warned that if any of the defendants involved in the incidents at the match came before him again he would adopt a “much more stringent attitude”.