A THUG who invaded the pitch at Hillsborough and assaulted Sheffield Wednesday goalkeeper Chris Kirkland has been jailed for 16 weeks.
Leeds United supporter Aaron Cawley, aged 21, of Blenheim Square, Cheltenham, ran onto the pitch during the Yorkshire derby on Friday night and slapped the owls goalie over his face - sparking outrage among fans across the country.
Furious Wednesday boss Dave Jones branded Leeds fans ‘vile animals’ and called for them to banned from all away matches after Cawley’s display.
Other Leeds fans ripped up seats and advertising display hoardings in the ground.
Cawley, who has had two Football Banning Orders in the past and been jailed for breaching them, appeared at Sheffield Magistrates’ Court today and pleaded guilty to common assault and entering the field of play.
He was arrested by police at his home address in Cheltenham and brought to South Yorkshire for questioning yesterday, where he admitted his actions and was charged.
Appearing at court with an LUFC tattoo clearly visible on his neck, Cawley watched television footage of the incident shown to as District Judge Naomi Redhouse, which was screened live to millions of fans on Friday night.
Paul Macaulay, prosecuting, told the court Cawley claimed to have been drunk when he ran onto the pitch and struck the Owls player after Leeds equalised in the second half.
He said the thug, who has already been issued with two Football Banning Orders in the past, claimed to have downed several cans of Stella, three quarters of a litre of vodka and six or seven pints of cider before the game.
The court also heard that Cawley told police he could not remember the incident.
Mr Macaulay said: “Mr Kirkland thought it was somebody celebrating excessively and perhaps taking the mickey and whilst Mr Kirkland was stood there trying to ignore him he effectively slapped him to both sides of his face.
“He, Mr Kirkland, described it as being hit like a tonne of bricks and he went straight to the floor.
“Because this was a Friday night live match on Sky unsurprisingly the internet and social networking sites lit up with his name and he was apprehended at his home address.
“He explained that he had been drinking heavily during the course of the day. He had been drinking from about 10am.
He said he was incredibly drunk. He says he remembers nothing at all from half time.”
The court heard Cawley was contacted by a friend as he made his way home from the match on a train, who told him what he had done.
The following morning he emailed South Yorkshire Police and Sky News to admit responsibility and to apologise for his behaviour, describing himself as ‘a disgrace’ and his actions as ‘inexcusable’.
Cawley’s solicitor Elizabeth Anderton said he contacted South Yorkshire Police on at midnight on Friday to accept responsibilty for his actions and followed the phone call up with an email the following morning.
She said he also spoke to a football intelligence officer from Leeds and made arrangements to hand himself in at his local police station, but was arrested at home first.
“He has expressed a great deal of remorse for his actions. He is shocked by his behaviour,” she said.
He had been drinking excessively all day.
“Mr Cawley has been shown the TV footage and cannot recall what he did.”
She said previous breaches of his Football Banning Orders had all been committed after he had been drinking.
“He does not put forward drink as an excuse for his behaviour but he knows getting intoxicated to that extent it is likely to happen,” added his solicitor.
“He was disgusted with his behaviour, extremely ashamed.”
She added: “This wasn’t in any way pre-planned - it was a drunk mistake that Mr Cawley would like to assure the public will never happen again.”
Jailing Cawley, Judge Redhouse said the amount of alcohol the Leeds fan is said to have consumed before he ran onto the pitch was not obvious
“I am told you understand you have brought shame onto the game of football by your actions,” she said.
I have heard you consumed a substantial amount of alcohol, I have watched the television footage and I have to say I don’t observe those effects of alcohol on you.”