A Manchester United fan who threw a smoke grenade during Alex Ferguson’s 5-5 farewell match at The Hawthorns has been handed a three-year football banning order.
Karl Henson was also given an eight-week jail term, suspended for 12 months.
Former West Bromwich Albion assistant chief steward Mick Hodgetts had been due to give evidence in the 29-year-old’s trial on Wednesday but died after being hit by a car on Saturday. Mrs Suki Rai, prosecuting, attempted to make an application for Sandwell Magistrates Court to listen to hearsay evidence – meaning that Mr Hodgetts’s witness statement would have been heard by the bench without Henson being able to question its content.
Magistrates decided not to grant any adjournment for that to happen, before they found Henson, of Salford, Greater Manchester, guilty of possessing a smoke grenade at a sporting event, on May 19.
The case proceeded because of the willingness of Albion’s senior licensee steward Patrick Cook to appear as a witness in court.
During his trial, Henson maintained he picked up the smoke grenade after someone else activated it. He said he held it above his head for up to 40 seconds, so as to avoid ‘his legs getting burnt’ and to keep other people ‘out of harm’s way’. He claimed someone else took it out of his hand and threw it onto the pitch from the Smethwick End.
Mr Cook said he watched Henson, who was wearing a red Adidas top to the game, holding the smoke grenade in one hand, while both of them were above his head, before he threw the device.
Mr Cook said: “He was just smiling. It was so blatant.”
HGV driver Henson, who defended himself in court, was ordered to pay £300 costs and an £80 victim surcharge.