A man who mocked the death of six-year-old football fan Bradley Lowery has been warned he may face a jail term after admitting a public order offence.
Dale Houghton, 31, from Rotherham, was arrested on Saturday after pictures emerged showing two men displaying a mobile phone image of the young cancer victim during a match against Sunderland at Hillsborough on Friday.
Sunderland beat Sheffield Wednesday 3-0 and, after the game, an image surfaced on social media of Houghton holding up a zoomed-in picture of Bradley in a Sunderland kit.
The man stood next to him appeared to be laughing.
Houghton, from Rotherham, was bailed after a brief hearing at Sheffield Magistrates’ Court on Monday morning and will be sentenced on 17 November.
District Judge James Gould told him “your actions are utterly deplorable” and that all sentence options were open, including a prison sentence.
Bradley died in 2017, aged six, after he was diagnosed with a rare neuroblastoma when he was just 18 months old.
Bradley's story spread across the world after his mother Gemma launched a fundraiser in 2013 to try and get him treatment in the US.
Their son was befriended by then-Sunderland star Jermaine Defoe, who took him out onto the pitch before several matches.
Sunderland FC were quick to condemn the incident. It said: "We are aware of the images circulating and have launched an immediate investigation together with South Yorkshire Police. We roundly condemn this outrageous and utterly deplorable behaviour. We can only apologise for the undoubted distress caused to Bradley’s family and friends."
What is a public order offence?
Public order offences range from affray, participating in riots, and causing violent disorder. Houghton was charged under section 4A of the Public Order Act (POA) 1986 which covers intentional harassment, alarm or distress.
Police said a second man arrested on Saturday had been released on bail pending further inquiries.
Watch: Hundreds attend funeral of cancer victim Bradley Lowery, 6
What are the punishments for public order offences?
Section 4A carries a higher penalty than section 5 of the POA which is applied for causing harassment, alarm or distress, but without deliberate intention.
Section 5 carries a fine as maximum punishment whereas Houghton's admission under section 4A means he could face up to 26 weeks in prison.
The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) says that prosecution under 4A requires the intention to cause harassment, alarm or distress to a specific victim, which can usually be proved where there is evidence of specific, directed abuse.
It adds that prosecutors should also consider charging offences under sections 2 or 4 of the Protection from Harassment Act 1997 if the conduct complained of consists of two or more occasions.
What have Bradley Lowery's family said about the incident?
Lynn Murphy is co-founder and CEO at the Bradley Lowery Foundation. She said on Saturday that Bradley's family was "very upset" about the incident.
She told local news site Chronicle Live: "Bradley’s family are aware of the image circulating around social media, and are understandably very upset.
"At the age of just 6 years old, Bradley brought the football community together, with his infectious smile and personality, so to see the image of him being portrayed in this light is extremely upsetting for everyone who knew and loved him.
"We are grateful to Sheffield Wednesday in their quick condemnation of the actions of the people involved.
"We continue to have a good relationship with the football club, and understand this is an isolated incident and we thank the wider football community for their continued support of the Bradley Lowery Foundation."