He went out to protest on the streets of the Black Country, his face covered with a mask bearing the cross of St George, before hurling missiles towards police. But today father-of-two and English Defence League supporter Gareth Ballan was starting a 27-month sentence behind bars.
Ballan wore the mask as he joined hundreds of others for the English Defence League rally in Walsall town centre. As scenes turned ugly he was seen to throw two missiles, one a drinks can and the other an unconfirmed object, which may have been a brick, towards a police line. He was later seen standing at the front of a crowd of EDL supporters with his arms raised in the air, chanting and encouraging the crowd by pointing towards the police line.
At Wolverhampton Crown Court, sitting in Birmingham yesterday, he was sentenced to 27 months for violent disorder relating to the events of September 29, 2012.
Mr Howard Searle, prosecuting, said that although there was no evidence of the 28-year-old kicking or punching there had been two objects thrown.
Mr Harry Lally, defending, said bricklayer Ballan, of Newton Aycliffe, County Durham, was remorseful and at the time had personal issues. He added: “It is out of character. He travelled of course from the North East to Walsall and he fully accepts what he did do that wholly out of order.”
More than 30 men were sentenced at Crown Court in December but the case of Ballan had been adjourned for the preparation of a pre-sentence report. He had initially denied the offence but pleaded guilty on the day of the trial. Judge Mr Nicholas Webb, said: “During this disorder you were provocative and on two occasions threw a missile.”
Scenes in Walsall on the say of the rally were described as an ‘orgy of violence’ as yobs threw wood and bricks towards police. Thugs were also spotted overturning and dismantling a table to use its legs as weapons. Police carried out a year-long investigation to bring those responsible to justice and 31 men had already been sentenced for more than 55 years. Officers spent almost 500 hours working on the case to track down those involved.