Portsmouth FC fan who punched police horse in ‘baying mob’ at Southampton game is jailed for 20 months
Drunken Derek Jennings was repeatedly pushed back by police as more than 640 officers kept the ‘baying mob’ of Blues fans away from the 2,000 visiting Saints fans.
The groups traded threats and insults and police as away fans arriving at Fratton station were escorted along Goldsmith Avenue to the ground.
In court today prosecutor Simon Jones said 600 police officers and dog units were assigned to the game, with an extra 12 mounted officers on horseback and 40 British Transport Police officers.
Tensions were high at the first derby match since 2012, and the first weekday match since 1995.
Dad-of-two Jennings, of Laburnum Grove, Copnor, was part of the mob of Pompey fans waiting for Southampton fans to arrive with ‘ugly scenes’ through the evening.
Former Portsmouth Ukip council candidate Jennings, 53, had been drinking since 3pm on September 24 last year ahead of the third round Carabao Cup match at Fratton Park.
Former Ukip Portsmouth candidate, 53, admits punching police horse Luna in Portsmouth v Southampton violent disorder
Minutes before kick-off, he was among the disorder near Frogmore Road when he swung twice at police horse Luna, whose rider said Jennings tried twice more but missed.
‘Mr Jennings was very aggressive towards officers and Southampton fans,’ the prosecutor said.
‘We emphasise Mr Jenning’s behaviour is not only showing threats of violence towards the Southampton fans but also the police.
‘Mr Jennings is heard shouting “Southampton (swear word)”. He was told by the officer to move back and it’s after that, that your honour will see his clenched fist and swearing and punching a police horse in the nose and mouth.’
Jailing him, judge William Ashworth said if it were not for police the ‘group would simply have boiled over into a vast running battle’ in city streets.
He told Jennings: ‘You involved yourself in wide-scale disorder before a football game and there’s only one appropriate punishment – and that’s immediate custody.’
Jennings was handed a six-year banning order.
Footage on a body-worn camera caught Jennings’ actions. A member of the public also filmed and shouted ‘he’s finished’ as police gave chase and baton strike him.
When he sobered up in custody, Jennings said: ‘I can’t believe that I’ve swung at a horse and been so stupid.’
He admitted his behaviour was ‘disgraceful and that he was sorry,’ Mr Jones added.
Jennings was ‘part of a large group, he has threatened unlawful violence both to the Southampton group and to the police and he’s punching at the police horse,’ Mr Jones said.
Footage played at Portsmouth Crown Court today revealed the full extent of Hampshire’s biggest policing operation.
Flares were let off at Fratton station the moment Saints fans poured from the carriages onto the platform – marking the start of tense evening.
Police helicopter footage showed how a long track of police vans were used as a shield separating the two sides, with officers also acting as human shields.
Mr Jones said it was a match with ‘arguably one of the most intense rivalries in English football’.
Pompey fans were singing the notorious ‘he’s only a poor little scummer’ chant that ends: ‘So I hit him with a brick, and now he don’t sing any more.’
By 7.24pm opposing fans poured through a gap in police lines and clashed near Frogmore Road as officers battled to keep the sides apart.
Among fans from both sides was a ‘large number of risk supporters’ who ‘engage in anti-social behaviour’ and violent disorder, Mr Jones said.
Jennings had earlier been involved in disorder before punching the horse. Mr Jones said: ‘At 5.46pm, so two hours before kick off it’s then he first came to the attention of police in the area of Talbot Road and Goldsmith Avenue.
‘He was repeatedly swearing and indeed attempting to provoke police officers who dealt with Mr Jennings at that stage.
‘He was identified through his season ticket card. He was assessed to be drunk and intent on seeking conflict and as such a caution section 35 dispersal notice was given to him.’
Mr Jones added: ‘At that stage he walked away but of course he was to return later and shortly before the kick-off.’
Jennings admitted violent disorder in March.
Mitigating, Lucy Morell said Jennings was planning to watch the match with one friend and ‘he didn’t set out to take part in violence’.
Ms Morell added: ‘He was devastated by what he’s done and deeply ashamed of himself.’
A note of his interview said he ‘feels terrible’ and had brought ‘shame’ on his family and football club.
He wishes to apologise to the police rider, and ‘feels so bad and upset by the stupid actions, and that he’s been caught up in this’.
He was described as a ‘trustworthy, honest, family man’ in one of the five references submitted to the judge.
Depressed Jennings, who has 14 convictions for 21 offences, was previously handed an 18-month jail term and five-year football banning order in 1998.
Two other men have appeared at magistrates’ court charged with violent disorder linked to the match.
DCI John McGonigle said: ‘For a grown man to act in this way was deplorable, especially against an animal, who was simply there to help protect people who wanted to enjoy the game and get home safely.’
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