Groundsman denies fans’ clash charge

John Richmond.
John Richmond.
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A SUNDERLAND Football Club groundsman has denied being part of violence at Newcastle Central Station after a pre-season game.

Police officers and their dogs were injured during the incident as Sunderland supporters came home from a friendly against Hearts in August 2009.

Prosecutors yesterday claimed groundsman John Richmond was one of the men at the front of the group of supporters who launched a furious surge at police who were trying to contain the crowd and usher them towards their Metro train back to Sunderland.

Richmond, 46, of Fordfield Road, Ford Estate, Sunderland, who was himself injured during the clash, denies affray and is being tried by a jury at Newcastle Crown Court.

Prosecutor Michael Graham told jurors trouble flared when a group of Sunderland supporters left their train from Edinburgh at the same time as a group of Newcastle United supporters started to gather nearby.

Mr Graham said both sets of fans contained known hooligans or “risk supporters” and police were determined both factions should not clash.

So a plan was made to usher the Sunderland fans straight from their train, down the platform and into the nearby Metro station.

But Mr Graham told the court: “Immediately some of the group seemed intent on disorder.

“They were goading police dogs, chanting ‘Geordie scum’.

“They began cheering towards the other side of the station towards the entrance.

“Some of them were obviously unhappy about the police presence but they were ushered down the platform, behind the ticket office and towards the entrance of the Metro station.

“However, they became even more noisy, aggressive and hostile towards the police.

“There was then a sudden surge, a surge it would appear with the intention of breaking through the police line.

“The prosecution case is Mr Richmond was near the very front of that surge.”

Mr Graham police drew their batons as a means of protection from the mob.

And he said witnesses described the scenes, some of which were captured on CCTV, video and mobile phones cameras, as “all hell breaking loose”.

A number of witnesses describe police dogs being punched and kicked and one was even grabbed by the scruff of the neck by an angry fan who tried to pull the animal into the crowd.

Video footage played to jurors yesterday shows a large patch of blood on the station floor and shows fans who look bewildered and confused mingling with others who are furiously goading and attacking the police and their dogs.

Mr Graham said of the 3,000 supporters who travelled to support their team that day, most of them made it to Scotland and back without incident.

Richmond, who is shown on the video footage bleeding from his injuries, denies he used any violence that day and complained during interview after his arrest about violence being used against him by the police.

He said he may have moved forward with the crowd towards the police because he mistakenly thought they were allowed to walk towards the Metro at that time.

The trial continues.