Polish fans avoid prison following street clashes
Published 31/03/2009 | 06:33
Three Polish football fans arrested in connection with the violent disturbances which took place in the city centre at the weekend have each been given a two-month suspended sentence.
Tomasz Bobrowicz (30) from Suffolk, Przemyslaw Pawel Kusmierczyk (28) from Liverpool and Lukasz Szwajda (22), a chef who has been living in London for the past two years, all appeared at Belfast Magistrates' Court yesterday charged with disorderly behaviour.
A fourth man, Tomasz Jakobik (26) from University Avenue, Belfast who appeared on the same charge also admitted to possessing a firework without a licence. He will appear in court again on April 27.
All four men were arrested on Saturday following violent clashes between rival football fans at the Wetherspoon’s Bar on Bedford Street.
Dozens of Polish football supporters and Northern Ireland fans clashed inside the bar hours before the kick-off at Windsor Park.
Tables were damaged and chairs were thrown through the windows of the bar before the hordes of fans spilled on to the street.
Riot police had to be called in and the area was sealed off as officers tried to deal with the drunken mobs.
A police officer, who said he could connect all four defendants with the incident, told the court the men had been on the “periphery” of the clashes and were not part of any group which had orchestrated the violence.
A solicitor representing Mr Brobrowicz explained his client only became angry outside the bar after he was struck in the head. He needed 13 stitches to his head.
On handing down the sentences to the three men, District Judge Fiona Bagnall said she had taken into account the trio had been on the periphery of the violence and gave them all a two-month sentence, suspended for a year.
Eleven police officers were injured during the trouble which brought part of the city centre to a standstill for hours.
However, the disturbance at Bedford Street was only one of a number of confrontations to take place across the city before and after Northern Ireland’s 3-2 win over Poland.
Tates Avenue had to sealed off for several hours after riot police came under fire from bricks, fireworks, traffic cones, bottles and other missiles.
A number of homes in east and south Belfast were also targeted in what police have described as racially motivated attacks.