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Mob sought out rival football fans for brawl

Walsall | News | Published:

A mob of 50 to 60 football fans 'actively sought out' a much smaller group of rivals before a huge fight, a court heard.

Judge Graham Cliff spoke as he jailed two Walsall fans on the final day of sentencing more than 20 men at Shrewsbury Crown Court for their part in the violence, which cost the public £60,000 and saw a police officer's leg broken.

A man fell on top of Constable Lee Saunders as he tried to restore order during the ugly skirmish.

Up to 60 Shrewsbury Town supporters had gone looking for a fight with Walsall fans, the court heard. The brawl broke out in front of horrified shoppers in Shrewsbury town centre before bringing traffic to a standstill ahead of the League One game on October 14 last year.

Five Shrewsbury Town and two Walsall fans were sent to prison and lengthy match bans, suspended prison terms and hundreds of hours of unpaid work were handed out to the remaining thugs – four from Walsall and 10 from Shropshire – who admitted their part in the fighting.

Speaking at Shrewsbury Crown Court Judge Graham Cliff said: "It is quite apparent from the CCTV that Walsall supporters were actively sought out by Shrewsbury supporters."

He told Walsall defendants: "You were not the instigators of what went on but you certainly responded to the challenge."

Among those sentenced was James Ross, 27, of Windrush Close, Walsall, who said he only went to the match to accompany a younger relative. He was jailed for eight months and banned from attending games for six years. Michael Edwards, 56, of Roebuck Road, Walsall, who received a six-month jail term, suspended for two years, and a four-year ban after admitting violent disorder.

Mark Walters, 28, of Alumwell Road, and Dean Stone, 33, of Burgh Way, both Walsall, were ordered to do 250 hours of unpaid work, received a four-year ban and must pay £500 costs after admitting violent disorder.

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Neil Robinson, 51, of Stephenson Avenue, Walsall, said he had muscled in to protect a friend who was terminally ill with cancer.

Judge Cliff said: "You have escaped immediate custody by the skin of your teeth", and suspended his 12-month prison sentence for violent disorder for two years.

Robinson was ordered to complete 200 hours of unpaid work and handed a four-year ban. In total, 30 men were arrested during the investigation which took a year a cost £30,000.

When added to the £24,000 cost of extra policing and £5,600 prosecution bill, a total of £59,600 of tax payers' money was spent on dealing with the brawl.

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