Linfield fan given community service for head-butting spectator at Champions League game

The incident happened following Linfield's game with Zalgiris

A Linfield supporter who head-butted another fan over an alleged jibe at a football match has been given 200 hours community service.

Darren Noel Steele, 43, attacked the other man outside Windsor Park stadium in Belfast after a Champions League qualifier in July 2021.

Steele, of Hornbeam Road in the Dunmurry area of the city, pleaded guilty to assault occasioning actual bodily harm.

Belfast Magistrates’ Court heard the victim was confronted by the defendant’s girlfriend as he left the stadium following Linfield’s game against Lithuanian side Zalgiris Vilnius.

She asked him “Why did you call my partner a w*****” before Steele became involved, according to the prosecution.

In an attack captured on CCTV, the defendant pushed the man and then head-butted him in the face, causing his nose to bleed.

Members of St John Ambulance were able to treat the victim at the scene.

Defence barrister Michael Boyd agreed that it was a “nasty” assault, but argued that his client had no previous history of violence.

The injured party verbally abused Steele on the way into the ground and then got "right in his partner's face" when she challenged him about it, counsel claimed.

“He then snapped and completely overreacted.”

Steele was subsequently banned from attending Linfield games for the rest of the season, the court heard.

But Mr Boyd also stressed that a board member provided a character reference on behalf of the defendant.

“He is still clearly held in high regard… and well known around the club,” the barrister added.

“This was an aberration never to be repeated.”

Based on Steele’s early admissions and lack of previous offending, District Judge Steven Keown imposed the community service order as an alternative to a period of imprisonment.

He warned the defendant: “If you don’t do those hours you will be looking at a custodial sentence.”

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