TWELVE members of Burnley’s infamous hooligan firm the Suicide Squad have been jailed for a total of 32 years for their part in violence which erupted after the Clarets’ first Premier League clash with Blackburn.
Experienced officers described the derby day scenes outside The Station pub in Cherry Tree, Blackburn, as 'like something out of Braveheart' as Burnley fans came 'roaring, screaming and grunting'
up the hill to clash with rival Rovers supporters.
Police intercepted and Judge Graham Knowles QC admitted: “It was the closest of close run things that the police didn't find themselves sandwiched between two groups of drunken, violent and hostile men intent on confrontation'.
Judge Knowles said the Burnley gang's actions were about the 'glorification of violence' and that its ringleaders Andrew Porter, Daniel Tempest, Paul Hartley and Mark Hamer, got 'status and pleasure' from it.
He said evidence during four trials of ‘supporters’ showed that members of 'Blackburn Youth' had got wind of a 'planned confrontation' with the Suicide Squad hours after the game had finished.
Judge Knowles said the 'chosen battleground' was The Station pub in Preston Old Road with Burnley fans travelling there by taxi at around 5pm on October 18, 2009.
He said: “All these defendants gave their allegiance to it on this day.
"No-one leaving in a taxi was in the slightest doubt what they were doing and under what banner.”
Organiser Porter, 44, of Parliament Street, Burnley, who didn't even make it to the incident after his taxi got lost, was jailed for five years with a 10-year football banning order.
His right-hand man and fellow convicted football hooligan, Hartley, 27, of Church Street, Burnley, was jailed for four years with a 10-year banning order.
Tempest, 27, of Mitton Grove, Burnley, was told by the judge he was an 'intelligent, articulate man' with an 'extraordinary' flip side of enjoying violence.
His girlfriend had pleaded with him to behave before the derby.
He was jailed for four years and two months and given a 10-year banning order.
Hamer, 28, of Olivant Street, Burnley, was the fourth convicted hooligan with 30 previous offences and was jailed for three years and eight months.
Others convicted of conspiraring to commit violent disorder were Joshua Slade, 18, of Kittiwake Road, Chorley and Steven Ball, 18, of Crabtree Avenue, who were sent to young offenders institutes for 12 months and 14 months respectively, both with six-year banning orders.
Thomas McDonough, 23, of Valley Road, Barnoldswick, was jailed for 21 months with a seven-year order.
Stuart Craig, 23, of Haverholt Close, Colne, Ian Grice, 37, of Herbert Street, Padiham, and Scott Page, 26, of Huntroyde Close, Burnley, were all jailed for two years, with seven- and eight-year banning orders.
Page's mobile phone had pictures of Porter's book ‘Suicide Squad: The Inside Story of a Football Firm’ and a 'Suicide Youth' flag on it as 'badges of allegiance'.
Joshua Gornall, 22, of Northview, Eastburn, Yorkshire, kissed his pregnant wife in the public gallery before being sentenced to two years and three months jail, with an eight-year banning order.
He had been on his stag do on the day of the incident.
Sean Widdop, 24, of Hornbeam Way, Manchester, 'led a very different life to those in the dock' according to the Judge, but had armed himself with a snooker ball and padlock.
He was jailed for a total of three-and-a-half years, with an eight-year banning order.
Following the sentencing, senior officers who lead the operation and investigation spoke out.
In total 32 people were arrested immediately after the incident from both sides and a further 15 during the course of a five-month inquiry.
Mobile phones were seized, as was CCTV evidence, house to house inquiries were made and more than 160 statements taken.
Assistant Chief Constable Andy Cooke said the investigation into what police believed was 'pre-arranged disorder' between 'remnants of a bygone age' was given resources similar to a serious and organised crime inquiry 'because of how seriously we take this sort of violence'.
Mr Cooke said: “We've got more professional football grounds than anyone except the Met and GMP.
"It's a big responsibility for us. We have great relationships with the clubs.
“The fact this occurred some distance away, three hours after the game shows how well the grounds are policed by the police and clubs.”
“We will treat them as we treat other serious criminals.
"Those involved in it are halfwits, spoiling the reputation of football supporters.”
Superintendent Chris Bithell, who was the match commander on the day, praised officers' bravery, adding: “If the police weren't there, someone would have been seriously hurt.
"They are just thugs and criminals, it's people like that who spoil football.”
For the first time, Mr Bithell revealed that there were 400 officers and staff working on the East Lancashire derby operation throughout the day.
He said the tactics were right because of a minority 'hell-bent' on causing trouble.
Click on the link below to see photos of all the jailed fans.