Rotherham football thugs lose bid for freedom

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Two Rotherham football thugs jailed after terrorising a family of rival supporters, including a six-year-old boy, have been told their sentences were not a day too long.

Dominic Skidmore, aged 21, a member of the British BMX national team and an Olympic hopeful, headbutted Bradford fan, Gareth Hopkins, in front of his brother and young son in Rotherham, following the Rotherham Utd v Bradford City game on November 9, 2013.

Ashley James Thompson, 18, was another member of a gang of Rotherham fans ‘intent on violence’ - including Skidmore - who ‘pursued’ the Bradford family from the football ground to the train station after the game.

The mob-handed assault left Mr Hopkins with a cut above his eye, requiring nine stitches.

It is said to have had a serious psychological impact on his son, who was left ‘physically shaking and weeping’.

Mr Hopkins’ brother, Darren Hopkins, was also attacked.

Skidmore, of Stonepitt, Kettlebrook, Tamworth, Staffordshire, was sentenced to 18 months detention in a young offenders institution after pleading guilty to affray and assault occasioning actual bodily harm at Sheffield Crown Court in July.

Thompson, of Avon Mount, Masbrough, Rotherham, was handed an eight-month term, after pleading guilty to affray.

They asked Lord Justice Jackson, Mr Justice Holroyde, and Judge Simon Tonking, sitting at London’s Criminal Appeal Court, to reduce their sentences.

Both men insisted they had been too harshly punished and Skidmore argued that his sentence should now be suspended so he could return to his sporting career.

Condemning the attack, Mr Justice Holroyde called the incident ‘a lamentable episode of young men with a pack mentality under the influence of drink, pursuing a decent family of football supporters’.

He added: “This involved the targeting, pursuit and attack of innocent victims doing their best to avoid trouble, and with total disregard for the six-year-old boy at his father’s side.

“It was a cowardly attack. Skidmore did not have the slightest regard for the presence of the child, who must have been petrified and was described as physically shaking and weeping afterwards.”

Rejecting arguments that Skidmore should be freed, so as not to endanger his future in top level BMX, the judge added: “You don’t have a get out of jail card if you are a good sportsman.

“We accept the genuine remorse of these two young men and we hope that the fears for the future sporting career of Skidmore will prove unfounded. But the seriousness of these offences was such that nothing less than an immediate custodial sentence will suffice.”