South Yorkshire Police officer goaded fan before attack near Sheffield Wednesday ground, court hears

A football fan has told a court how a police officer attempted to "goad" him and "prompt a reaction" before allegedly punching him in the face repeatedly.

By Lee Peace
Friday, 02 August, 2019, 07:37

Pc Liam Stewart, of South Yorkshire Police, is accused of assaulting 18-year-old Chesterfield season ticket holder Louis McAndrew by pinning him against shop shutters and hitting him three times.

Giving evidence, Mr McAndrew said that the officer, aged 33, had grabbed him by the throat during the alleged attack, saying: "I could not breathe."

File photo dated 27/12/18 of South Yorkshire Police constable Liam Stewart, 33, who is appearing at Leeds Crown Court accused of assaulting 18-year-old Chesterfield season ticket holder Louis McAndrew before a football match at Hillsborough on August 8, 2017. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Issue date: Thursday August 1, 2019. See PA story COURTS Officer. Photo credit should read: Danny Lawson/PA Wire

Jurors at Leeds Crown Court had previously been told how the incident took place near Hillsborough Corner prior to Sheffield Wednesday's home match against Chesterfield on August 8 2017.

The court heard how lawyers representing Stewart will argue that he was acting in self-defence, and will allege that the fan had been a member of a group "commonly referred to as football hooligans" known as the Chesterfield Bastard Squad.

But Mr McAndrew said that he was not a hooligan, and that he had not behaved aggressively towards the defendant or his colleagues.

He told jurors that, on the day of the incident, he and some fellow away fans had been to several pubs prior to arriving at the Hillsborough Tap, which is within walking distance of the Championship club's stadium.

But the witness said he and his friends were asked by a bar lady to leave a short while later for being away fans and that, shortly after walking out, they were approached by a group of officers that included Stewart.

The fan said he and his friends were then served section 35 notices that prevented them from attending the match and meant that they had to leave the area within 15 minutes.

Asked how he reacted to being given the notice by Stewart, he said: "We were frustrated and shocked.

"I was talking to him (Stewart) normally, saying we had not done anything wrong, that I was a true fan and that we were not there to cause trouble."

Mr McAndrew said he and his friends then attempted to walk away from the stadium in order to avoid infringing the terms of the notices they had been given.

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But he told jurors that Stewart and another officer then blocked their way.

Asked what impression he got of the officers at that stage, the witness said: "That they were confrontational, that they were trying to goad us and wanted to prompt a reaction."

Mr McAndrew told jurors that the defendant then started to encroach on his space, pushing him against the shutters of a shop and putting his hand on his throat.

"The hand remained at my throat, and that was used to pin me, and as he pinned me he lifted up his arm so that his whole arm was covering my throat," he told court.

"I felt a punch to my face and that was it, I blanked out. From then on, I could just remember being on the floor with a nosebleed.

"I was shocked. I did not know why he had done it, my nose was pounding and there was blood everywhere."

It was put to Mr McAndrew by Adam Birkby, defending, that rather than being a "true football fan", he was in fact an "active football hooligan" who had previously behaved in an "aggressive and antisocial manner".

The witness denied this, but acknowledged that he had been given a three-year football banning order in March 2018 preventing him from attending games until 2021.

Stewart, of Hoyland, Barnsley, denies assault occasioning actual bodily harm.

The trial continues.