Court hears of a Wigan father of two's shame at football protest violence
“You’re wasting your time”, one protester shouted at officers as they received a barrage of missiles flying during “disgraceful” behaviour that led to the Man United vs Liverpool match postponed last year.
Thousands of fans objecting to the Glazer family’s ownership of the club descended on Old Trafford last year throwing bottles, cans and even barricades at police before raiding the pitch.
The match on May 2, 2021 was later postponed after the thought-to-be peaceful protests turned sour. Manchester Crown Court heard how one police officer was seriously injured after being hit in the face with a glass bottle and another was left feeling sick after being kicked in the testicles.
There are 40 defendants overall being hauled before the court after pleading guilty to violent disorder and other offences.
On November 16, six men were all sentenced for their part in the scenes His Honour Judge Nicholas Dean regarded as ‘disgraceful’.
Among them was 31-year-old Luke Matthews Abingdon Drive in Wigan who was seen to throw a bottle at police.
He, along with Peter McNally, 28, Niall Stott, 23, Sean Baines, 26, and George Baker, 36 were all given two year community orders and Aston Maxfield, 22 – who also pleaded guilty to violent disorder – was given a suspended prison sentence for his more severe role in the protests.
Separate video footage showed all six defendants playing their part in the protests outside Old Trafford football ground last year. Flares were let off, officers were threatened with violence and battered with bottles and cans, and the pitch was even raided, prosecutor David Lees said.
Maxfield, deemed as the most serious offender of the group, was shown in police body cam footage played to the court being detained by police trying to give another protester a boost up onto the roof of a turnstile. He was shouting to the police “if you think you’re going to stop them [the protestors] you’re wrong, you’re wasting your time”.
Following footage showed him throwing several objects at riot police and squaring up to officers with his fists raised outside the stadium. Later on, Maxfield, who has multiple previous convictions for violent offences, asked an officer for a fight after his shift and “gesticulating at cars on Chester Way”, Manchester Crown Court heard.
Also seen on the Sir Matt Busby Way alongside Maxfield was George Baker who the prosecutor described as throwing a glass bottle and metal can at police after being part of the group that raided the pitch. The assistant manager of the Grey Horse Inn on Portland Street “was seen bending over to pick up an item and then throw it at the police”, Mr Lees said.
Also raiding the pitch was McNally who recorded a video on the turf at the Theatre of Dreams saying “People f***ing power, this is what it is all about”. Something his defence lawyer Steven Sullivan said was influenced by heavy consumption of alcohol.
Matthews “jumped up and down and gesticulated at police officers”, Mr Lees said, describing the video footage. Matthews went on to pick up and throw a bottle at police, the court was told.
Stott and Baines were both shown in video footage throwing items at police, with the latter also helping pick up a barricade that was later hurled in the direction of police by other protestors.
Defending Maxfield, Brett Williamson explained that he has Emotionally Unstable Personality Disorder which played a part in his actions last year and he has made necessary changes since then to improve himself. The soon-to-be father has not had an offence since this incident, Mr Williamson stated.
Of Baines, Edward Steele said: “He wished to say he is very sorry for his offences, it is very out of character for him. He is disgusted by his behaviour and it has brought shame upon his family.”
On behalf of Matthews, Laura Broom explained he had attended the previous protest against the European Super League which was peaceful, so decided to join this one thinking it would be the same. She went on to say how the father-of-two was “filled with shame” watching the footage of his behaviour.
Mitigating on behalf of Stott and McNally, Steven Sullivan said they were both of previous good character before this event and had no convictions. He explained that both men were influenced by alcohol consumption. Both were remorseful for their actions Mr Sullivan said and McNally has already started to reduce his alcohol intake following these events last year.
Trying to avoid a Football Banning Order (FBO) for Baker, Stuart Neale tried to argue that this could cost him his job. Mr Neale referenced his previous good character, resourcefulness and apologies to the court and to police, as well as his numerous character references.
“He was paralysed with shame,” he told the court of Baker’s reaction to the footage. Despite this lengthy plea, the judge issued a three year FBO from Old Trafford and the city centre on match days for all six defendants – however Baines and Baker avoided the city centre section as they live and work in the centre.
Matthews was given a two year community order where he would have to do a drug rehabilitation programme for nine months and do 25 RAR days. He also had to pay a £750 fine and costs of £500.
Maxfield, of Pelsall Road, Walsall was sentenced to 16 months in prison suspended for two years. He also had to carry out 180 hours of unpaid work and attend a thinking skills programme.
Baines, of Owen Street on Deansgate, was handed a two year community order and has to do 120 hours of unpaid work. He must also pay costs of £500.
Stott, of Borrowdale Close in Royton, was also given a two year community order which required him to 20 days of rehabilitation and 125 hours of unpaid work. He also had to pay £500 in costs.
McNally, of Radnor Drive in Wallasey, Merseyside, had to do 150 hours of unpaid work and undertake a six month alcohol treatment programme as part of his two year community order. He also had to pay £500 in costs.
Baker, of Rochdale Road in Manchester, was given a two year community order where he must do 150 hours of unpaid work. He also had to pay £500 in costs.