A VILE football fan has swerved jail after he used a picture of tragic Bradley Lowery to mock Sunderland supporters for “banter”.
Dale Houghton held up the photo to mock Sunderland fans
FacebookHe pleaded guilty after his sick act drew criticism from all football fans[/caption]
PA:Press AssociationBradley tragically died from cancer aged just six[/caption]
The 31-year-old admitted causing harassment, alarm and distress after his vile act drew criticism from all football supporters.
Houghton appeared at Sheffield Crown Court today where he avoided jail.
He was instead handed a 12 week sentence suspended for 18 months.
Houghton also received a five-year football banning order and must complete 200 hours of unpaid work.
District Judge Marcus Waite said his actions were “utterly appalling” and “disgraceful”.
He added: “You showed callous disrespect to a brave young man who was rightly held in the highest esteem by football fans everywhere.”
The sentence comes after Bradley’s mum Gemma previously slammed the “unforgivable” act, which took place on September 29.
In a victim impact statement, she said: “This image made me feel so many emotions. I find it hard to put into words.
“It is not just disrespectful to Bradley but also to other people who are going through the emotional trauma of dealing with cancer.
“This image portrays negatively. I feel upset that these two men used this image to get a reaction from Sunderland fans. It was unforgivable.
“I have nothing but loving memories of Bradley.”
The court heard how Houghton’s antics had caused a “huge public revulsion”.
Prosecutor Jade Short said the shamed football fan found it “enjoyable banter” as he was smiling throughout.
The court was also told Houghton has lost his job as a window fitter following the sick act and is facing a ban from attending matches.
Connie Combs, defending, said Houghton realised he was “out of line” and was “disgusted” by his actions.
A 27-year-old man who was also arrested has been released on bail while investigations continue.
Brave Bradley’s battle with against rare childhood cancer neuroblastoma captured the nation’s hearts.
He was diagnosed with the aggressive disease when he was just 18 months old, and tumours spread through his chest, lungs, lymph nodes, bone and bone marrow.
After major surgery and gruelling chemotherapy, he pulled through and went into remission for 18 months.
But the cancer returned in 2016, with his family dealt the crushing blow his disease was terminal.
The footie-mad youngster had struck up a close bond with Sunderland captain Jermain Defoe, who led him out on to the pitch before several matches.
Tragically, Bradley died in July 2017 in his devastated parents’ arms, with Defoe paying an emotional tribute to his “best pal”.
Speaking after Houghton pleaded guilty last month, the ex-England star said he was “appalled and saddened”.
Defoe said: “My thoughts at this time go out to Gemma and Carl [Bradley’s parents], who shouldn’t have to deal with incidents like this, but rather be praised for the amazing work they are doing with the Bradley Lowery Foundation in their son’s memory.
“I urge the public to stand behind the family and continue support the Foundation and its projects.
“Bradley was one of the most inspirational children this world has ever seen, and he will never stop inspiring us.
“We love and miss you Brad. Love, your best friend forever.”
PAHoughton arrives at court today[/caption]
Getty – ContributorBradley’s mum Gemma said the act was ‘unforgivable’[/caption]
Getty Images – GettyJermain Defoe, who developed a close bond with Bradley, also condemned Houghton’s actions[/caption]