Man jailed for Hillsborough assault

30 October 2013

In the recent game between Sheffield Wednesday and Leeds United at Hillsborough, Chris Kirkland, Sheffield Wednesday's goalkeeper, was assaulted by Aaron Cawley when Cawley ran onto the pitch and struck Mr Kirkland in the face. 

Mr Cawley, said to be a fan of Leeds United, pleaded guilty at Sheffield Magistrates' Court to assaulting Mr Kirkland and entering the field of play.  In addition to his 16 week sentence of imprisonment he was also given a 5 year football banning order.  A spokesman for Leeds United have said that the club intends to ban him from Elland Road, Leeds United's home ground, for life.  

The court was told that Mr Cawley had been drinking heavily and ran onto the pitch moments after Sheffield Wednesday had conceded an equaliser in the 76th minute of the match.  The prosecutor told the court that Mr Cawley had told police that he had drunk a number of cans of lager and three quarters of a litre of vodka before arriving in Sheffield, and then had consumed a further 7-10 pints of cider before the match.  Apparently he was "so drunk" that he did not remember what happened and only realised after seeing the footage on television.  

Mr Cawley's solicitor, in mitigation, was anxious to assure the courts that reports that her client had bragged about the incident on social networking sites were incorrect, but the District Judge indicated that she had not seen those reports and was not interested in them.  The court was told that Mr Cawley had emailed the police to apologise and also emailed Sky Sports, who broadcast the match, hoping that his apology would be passed on to the two clubs involved and to Mr Kirkland.  

The court was also told that Mr Cawley had been the subject of two previous football banning orders in the past which he had breached on four occasions.

A statement from Leeds United football club said "while we are pleased to see justice brought so quickly, our one disappointment is that we feel the sentence could, and should, have been considerably longer".

Whilst it is always difficult to compare sentences like for like, Trenton Oldfield, the man who disrupted the boat race by swimming across the River Thames, could potentially feel aggrieved.  He did not assault anybody but received a sentence of 6 months imprisonment for causing a public nuisance.

The Leeds United Chairman Ken Bates said "what is encouraging is that I am told the vast majority of Leeds fans are as appalled by what happened as everybody else.  The idiot who ran on the pitch better not go any where near Elland Road again.  There are a lot of people angered by what he did.  We have been working hard as a club to improve our image over the past 2 years but this guy has done so much damage to that.  It isn't fair on the overwhelming majority of Leeds fans.  It doesn't do any of us any good". 

The Football Association is continuing its own investigation into the evening after several Leeds fans invaded the pitch following their equalising goal and there were also reports of bottles, seats and coins being thrown inside the stadium.