Dad caged after dragging female football steward in "worst violence in a decade"

A dad who dragged a female steward after a Leeds United FC game saw the "worst violence in a decade" has been jailed.

Ben Smith, 33, pulled the woman into the seating area where fellow Birmingham City away fans brutally kicked her.

The Sainsbury's worker climbed over rows of seats to stop her shielding her colleagues after Leeds United's 1-0 victory at the EFL Championship match.

Leeds Crown Court had heard how one of the team's fans sparked the "worst violence in a decade" at the stadium by running onto the pitch on October 19 last year.

Smith, of Daventry, Northamptonshire, was jailed for seven months on Monday after pleading guilty to violent disorder, LeedsLive reports.

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He was one of 26 men and two youths charged with violent disorder following a series of public appeals for information.

The court was shown CCTV footage of Smith climbing over seats, grabbing his victim by the arm and pulling her out of the aisle to the area where he had been sitting.

She banged her head on a seat and had a concussion. Other fans repeatedly kicked her while she was stuck in the area.

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Sentencing Smith, Judge Andrew Stubbs QC told him: "One steward thought if fans saw a woman getting involved they might stop.

"She tried to intervene by putting her body over the top of another steward. Far from stopping, it flared up.

"You grabbed hold of her arm and dragged her in the seating away from her efforts to stop the situation. Others kicked her. You allowed it to happen."

Kevin Waddingham, mitigating, said his client had acted out of "misplaced loyalty" to another Birmingham City fan who he did not know.

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He said Smith, who had no previous convictions but had been cautioned for being drunk at a sporting event, handed himself in to police after seeing an appeal in the press and admitted what he had done.

Mr Waddingham said his client, who has dyspraxia, works full-time in Sainsbury's to support his partner and child.

The court heard around 30 away fans tried to stop Smith from being arrested by punching, kicking and spitting at stewards and police officers.

Fourteen of the men were sentenced earlier this month, with seven men receiving immediate custodial sentences.

Prosecutor Carmel Pearson said police feared they would be overwhelmed and stewards were terrified.

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One male steward suffered a head and back injury after being knocked to the ground and punched and kicked by Birmingham City supporters. A female steward had her head stamped on.

Miss Pearson said one steward told police: "It felt like a war zone. I was concerned for my own safety, my colleagues and also the police officers."

Ian Crawford, who at the time was Leeds United operations director, said in a statement: "They were demonstrating a real hatred towards the stewards and police who were present, and I would say this is the worst violence I have seen in over ten years."

Mr Crawford suffered an injury to his eye and had to have an operation on his eyelid.

Leeds United's 100-year anniversary celebrations were planned at the end of the match and a significant number of Birmingham City fans remained in the stadium after the final whistle.

People were also injured when coins were thrown between both sets of supporters.

Some Birmingham City fans later got on to Elland Road and bottles and traffic cones were thrown during confrontations with Leeds United fans.

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