A guy who mocked Bradley Lowery by holding up a photo of him at a football game was engaging in “enjoyable banter,” a court heard.
Dale Houghton, 31, was charged with a public order offense following an incident during Sheffield Wednesday’s match against Sunderland on Friday (September 29).
Social media images spread of two men laughing at Hillsborough, with Houghton holding up a picture of Sunderland fan Bradley Lowery, who stole the nation’s hearts during his neuroblastoma fight aged six in 2017.
Judge calls the actions of a fan who insulted Bradley Lowery’s death “utterly deplorable.”
His conduct were branded as “utterly deplorable” by a judge on Monday (October 2).
District Judge James Gould, who said he saw the photos, told Houghton, “You’re holding up your phone and you’re clearly reveling in what you’re doing.”
Houghton, who appeared in court wearing a pink coat over a grey sweatshirt and joggers, was “disgusted” by what he did, according to defence lawyer Constance Coombs.
Houghton, of Rotherham, provided “full and frank admissions” when questioned by police, according to prosecutor Jade Scott.
She said he told the officers he was taking part in “enjoyable banter” and “that was the reason he was smiling”.
Ms Coombs said there had been “mutual goading” between the Wednesday and Sunderland fans and he “took it too far”.
She said the Sunderland fans were waving Sheffield United badges at the home fans and “my client took the deplorable decision to show the picture of Bradley Lowery”.
Ms Coombs said that what he did was “out of character” and “he’s very remorseful for his actions”.
She said: “His behaviour was totally unacceptable.”
He has now lost his job as a window fitter because of his actions.
A Sheffield Wednesday spokesperson said: “We reiterate what we said over the weekend. There is absolutely no room for this kind of behaviour in football or the wider community.”
In a victim impact statement Bradley’s mum Gemma said: “This image has made me feel so many emotions, I find it hard to put into words.”
She said it was “disrespectful” to her son but also to other children who were suffering from cancer.
Ms Lowery went on to say: “I feel upset that these two men have used this image of Bradley to get a reaction from the Sunderland fans.”
The statement went on to describe the occurrence as “unforgiveable” and that “she has nothing but loving memories of Bradley,” according to Judge Gould.
Houghton admitted to one count of deliberately causing harassment, alarm, or distress by exhibiting any threatening, abusive, or insulting writing, sign, or other visual depiction.
He was granted bail on the condition that he not attend any regulated football stadiums in the UK, that he not go within a mile of Hillsborough Stadium on Sheffield Wednesday match days, and that he complete a drug intervention program.
The court heard that Houghton will almost certainly face a football ban.
The judge was informed that he had a previous conviction for a “unrelated” offense four years ago, for which he was fined.
Over the weekend, the photographs garnered widespread attention on social media.