SEVEN members of Burnley’s notorious Suicide Squad jailed for travelling to Blackburn for an organised gang fight after the Clarets’ first Premier League clash with Blackburn have had their sentences cut on appeal.
Describing the men as “foot soldiers” in the large-scale brawl between rival football hooligans, top judges said their sentences were too long and reduced them by a quarter.
But the judges, sitting at London’s Criminal Appeal Court, refused to alter the jail terms handed to the organisers and ringleaders of the violence.
The court heard 12 members of the hooligan firm were jailed for between 12 months and five years at Preston Crown Court in January for conspiracy to commit violent disorder.
Joshua Gornall (23), of North View, Eastburn, near Keighley, had his sentence of two years and three months cut to one year and nine months. Ian Robert Grice (37), of Herbert Street, Padiham, Scott Anthony Page (26), of Huntroyde Close, Burnley, and Stuart William Craig (23), of Haverholt Close, Colne, all had their two-year sentences reduced to 18 months.
Joshua David Slade (18), of Kittiwake Road, Heapey, Chorley, had his term of 12 months’ detention cut to nine months.
Thomas Edward McDonough (23), of Valley Road, Barnoldswick, had his sentence of one year and nine months cut to 16 months.
Steven Callum Ball (18) of Crabtree Avenue, Bacup, had his sentence of 14 months’ detention cut to 10 months.
Gornall, Grice, Craig, Slade and McDonough had all admitted conspiracy to commit violent disorder while Page and Ball were convicted of the same offence after a trial.
Mr Justice Maddison told the appeal court the football match on October 18th 2009 wasa major sporting event.
Hours after the game finished a number of Burnley hooligans travelled from the Royal Butterfly Pub in Burnley, which was under police surveillance, in taxis and minibuses.
The judge said this had been organised by Andrew Francis Porter (44) – the “prime mover” behind the fight – who stayed in Burnley to gather more recruits.
Meanwhile, in the Cherry Tree area of Blackburn, about 50 Blackburn Rovers supporters were waiting in The Station and The Beehive pubs – the “chosen battleground” for the violence.
The Burnley contingency arrived at a nearby petrol station around 6 p.m. and ran towards the pubs chanting “Suicide Squad.”
But the judge said that, if the plan had been to avoid the police by planning the clash after the game, the gang were “disappointed” as officers on horseback rode towards them. Most of the men stopped but three instigators tried to goad the others into continuing with their plan.
A number of Blackburn hooligans then turned their anger on the police, throwing bottles, and had to be locked inside one of the pubs.
Seven of the Blackburn gang were jailed for between six and 16 months at Preston Crown Court in January after admitting affray.
Sentencing, Judge Graham Knowles QC said their actions involved the “pursuit of violence for pleasure” and they had “brought shame” on football and the club they claimed to support.
Lawyers for the 12 Burnley hooligans argued their sentences were “too long”, saying the punishments were harsh considering no violence took place.
They also argued there was an “unwarranted disparity” between the terms handed to Burnley supporters and those given to the Blackburn fans.
Mr Justice Maddison dismissed appeals by Porter and the three men who goaded the gang into pressing on with the violence.
The judge, sitting with Lord Justice Moses and Judge Clement Goldstone QC, said Porter had done “everything he could to bring about the violence and his sentence, although severe, was justified.
None of the men challenged their football banning orders.