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Football supporter held ‘smoke grenade’ in heart of crowd at City Ground

todayJune 22, 2022 1

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A Stoke City supporter admitted, “it was a moment of stupidity”, as he fought but lost being banned from his beloved home team matches after he held a flare aloft at a clash with Nottingham Forest. Five minutes before kick-off, Sebastian Hargreaves held up a bright red “smoke grenade” in the lower tier of the Bridgford Stand at 3pm on Saturday, February 12, this year.

Fans were signing, “very vocally”, described one officer in his statement about the incident. They were jumping up and down and throwing beer around when red smoke was spotted appearing from the heart of the busy crowd.

Hargreaves was holding the flare, Nottingham Magistrates’ Court heard, as he was sentenced for possessing a smoke flare during the period of a designated sporting event. CCTV tracked Hargreaves and he was detained.

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He admitted to the officer he set off the flare and he had another one on him and said, “let me hand this in as well, mate”. Harvey Gahir, prosecuting for Nottinghamshire Police, said: “He had in his possession a smoke grenade, also known as a pyrotechnic”.

After pleading guilty to the offence, Hargreaves, 26, of Pacific Road, Trentham, Stoke-on-Trent, gave evidence in the hope a football banning order would not be imposed.

Working full-time as a claims coordinator for a loss adjustment firm in Stoke, he told how he gained a business management degree from Staffordshire University. His mum died of breast cancer in 2020 when she was 58 years old.

Season ticket holder Hargreaves, who has supported Stoke City for more than a decade, told magistrates: “I can assure you, she would be disappointed in my actions”.

He bought two cold non-toxic fully biodegradable smoke flares online but was not aware it was a criminal offence to bring them to a football ground. He intended to, “add to the atmosphere prior to kick-off”.

The game saw ten-man Nottingham Forest clinched a dramatic 2-2 draw at home to Stoke City as they rescued a point in the dying minutes.

Since being charged, Hargreaves has been allowed to attend Stoke City matches. “It was a moment of stupidity,” he added. “I’m very much remorseful”.

His lawyer, Peter Howland, said: “It is an isolated, stupid incident. It is a very onerous order (speaking of the banning order). Stoke City have 46 games in a season times three. That’s 130-odd games he will be punished; not allowed to go.

“There is no risk of this man causing violence or disorder at a football ground”.

But presiding magistrate Cheryl Abraham, sitting with a colleague, imposed the three-year banning order keeping Hargreaves away from matches in England and Wales for three years. She told him the offence was aggravated by the potential disturbance and panic by the crowd, and further aggravated by him having multiple flares.

A fine of £300 was imposed, a £34 victim surcharge and a costs order for £85.

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Written by: thehitnetwork

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