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Teen avoids football banning order after Irish league fans clash

A teenager who admitted to police he was leading a group of Ballymena United supporters around the Co Antrim town when they clashed with fans of derby rivals Coleraine has avoided being hit with a Football Banning Order.

Bradley Douglas (19), of Queen Street, Ballymena, had a number of run-ins with Coleraine fans on March 4 this year, the day Ballymena played Coleraine in the Irish Cup quarter-final.

A prosecutor told Ballymena Magistrates' Court on Thursday, Douglas was with a number of fans near the Coach Bar at Galgorm Street in Ballymena and was verbally "abusive" to Coleraine fans and tried to approach the opposition supporters but was blocked by police.

The prosecutor said there was then a "coming together" of rival supporters at Alexander Street, closer to Ballymena Showgrounds football ground and that Douglas was acting in an "aggressive manner" and had to be struck by a police baton.

Half an hour later, the prosecutor said, Douglas was again verbally abusive to Coleraine fans and when arrested he told police he was "leading the Ballymena supporters about the town".

A prosecutor said they were applying for a Football Banning Order. A number of similar orders have already been issued in courts, including against Coleraine fans in recent years.

Defence barrister Michael Smith opposed the Banning Order saying his client had not actually used any violence but instead it appeared it was "all verbal".

District Judge Peter King said he would not impose a Banning Order saying the incidents did not take place in a football ground and nor did they involve fans on trains or buses on the way to a match.

Douglas appeared via video link from Hydebank prison and admitted a charge of disorderly behaviour relating to March 4.

He also pleaded guilty to a number of other charges relating to different dates including being disorderly in Ballymena on February 10 this year when he also assaulted police.

During the February 10 incident at North Road, Ballymena, police encountered a group of males who were drinking and shouting and Douglas kicked out, threw punches and attempted to headbutt police.

Lawyer Mr Smith said his client had led a "somewhat nomadic" lifestyle since his mid-teens and had a self-confessed long-standing difficulty with substance abuse.

Mr Smith said "negative peers" were a factor in his client's offending and said if he was to begin a life somewhere else away from Ballymena it might be of some advantage.

Judge King put Douglas on probation for a year and ordered him to do 100 hours Community Service and told him it was clear he had the potential to turn his life around.

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