Trio in court over football violence ahead of Coleraine game against Cliftonville
Two football hooligans who were part of a 100 strong mob which clashed ahead of an Irish Premiership match between Coleraine and Cliftonville have been dealt with in court.
Cliftonville fan Ryan Christopher Thompson (23), from Church Drive, Glengormley, and Coleraine fan Marc Stephen Winston Graham (27), of Loughanhill Park, Coleraine, appeared at Coleraine Magistrates Court on Friday.
Another Cliftonville fan, Dominic Corr (20), of Madrid Court, Belfast, had the two charges he faced dismissed at the court.
In the past fans of Irish Premiership clubs have been given Football Banning Orders but a prosecutor said she was not seeking any such Orders in the cases before Friday's court.
The prosecutor said at 2.45pm on April 30, 2016, police were present at The Crescent near Coleraine Showgrounds stadium when they were "confronted by a large scale disturbance involving rival fans".
The prosecutor said just six police officers were attempting to separate around 100 fans and bottles and missiles were thrown by both sides.
She said fans were also shouting and "posturing" with both groups advancing towards each other.
Footage was shown to the court which showed Coleraine fans chanting 'CCA' - a reference to the so-called fan group 'Coleraine Casual Army'. A male could be seen lying on the ground in restraints and police officers had batons drawn.
Officers could be heard warning the fans to move away and calling for back-up and warning supporters that images were being recorded amidst chaotic scenes.
The prosecutor said some other fans were dealt with by way of "diversionary options".
District Judge King said the video evidence showed there was the "potential for much more significant disorder."
Thompson contested charges of disorderly behaviour and assaulting an unknown male during the trouble but was convicted by District Judge Peter King.
A police officer said Thompson was wearing "distinctive" clothing.
A prosecutor said the defendant was interviewed and denied he was at the match and otherwise made no comment although she said it was quite clear from footage that he was inside the grounds.
The prosecutor added Thompson did not deny he was involved in any disorderly behaviour.
Thompson's defence barrister, Thomas McKeever, said the burden of proof was on the prosecution to prove beyond a reasonable doubt the case against his client.
Ryan Thompson did not wish to give evidence to the court.
Convicting him on both charges, Judge King said based upon the video evidence the case against Thompson was "significantly stronger" than against Corr and he added the court could take an adverse inference from Thompson failing to give evidence on his own behalf.
The judge said the case of Thompson said the case had to be treated differently from Graham because credit could not be given for a guilty plea. He imposed a three months jail term, suspended for two years.
Mr McKeever said his client had a very limited record and had bail fixed for appeal.
Marc Graham previously pleaded guilty to being disorderly and was fined £250. The prosecutor said video footage showed him involved in a "scuffle" and during a police interview he admitted his behaviour was disorderly.
A defence lawyer for Graham said he was a Coleraine fan for some time but this was his "first unsavoury incident".
Corr was charged with assaulting a police officer and being disorderly and contested the matters.
Corr's defence lawyer Ben Thompson said there was "seriously weak identification evidence" regarding his client.
He said fans were all dressed in similar clothing and he asked for the case against his client to be stopped at the end of the prosecution case. The charges against Corr were dismissed by Judge King.
Belfast Telegraph Digital