A football fan's practical joke on a police officer has badly backfired as he has now been convicted of assault.
Manchester City fan Martyn Blair was in high spirits after his side won against Sunderland. As he was leaving the Stadium of Light, he pointed to the officer's chest and asked "What's that on your shirt?"
When the officer looked down, Mr Blair lightly flicked his nose, expecting him to laugh at the playground prank.
But the officer did not appear to see the funny side and instead grabbed him, warned him he was being arrested for assault and took him into custody at 6pm after the Premiership clash on March 5.
The fan was then transferred to South Shields police station and released almost seven hours later at 2.45am the next day, charged with assaulting the officer.
Mr Blair admitted the charge, his first offence, in a prosecution over an incident his lawyer described as a "trivial matter".
He was fined £75 with a £30 surcharge to fund victim services.
The 29-year-old, from Carlisle, Cumbria, said: "City had won 2-0 and I was in a good mood as I left the ground. As I went past the policeman I pointed to his chest and asked what was on his shirt.
"As he looked down I lightly flicked his nose, there was barely any contact and jot couldn't have hurt him.
"I know it was childish but it was done in good spirits, there was nothing aggressive about it and I honestly thought he would just laugh it off.
"But when he took hold of me and said I was being arrested I couldn't believe it, I said I meant nothing by it but I was held at the stadium and then at a police station until quarter to three the next morning.
"I had to wait another couple of hours after that for my dad to drive over from Carlisle to pick me up.
"It was a total over-reaction and I now have a criminal record for police assault. Surely the police had more to concern themselves with than a totally harmless bit of banter."
Prosecutor Sarah Traynor told Sunderland magistrates a police officer on duty came across Blair after the game had finished.
She said: “He extended his right arm towards the officer’s chest as if he was pointing at something.
“When the officer looked down he then moved it upwards and it connected with his mouth and nose.”
The court heard Blair then told the officer: “I thought you would find it funny.”
In an interview, he told police: “I thought it would be a laugh, just playful. I can’t remember if I touched him – I’d had about five pints. I don’t think I was drunk. I was just having a bit of banter with the officer.”
The court heard he has no previous convictions or warnings.
Brian Chapman, defending, said: “The law is a very serious matter and sometimes a trivial matter can be brought to court. In this case he is walking away from the Man City game, his team has won.
“Perhaps for a laugh, he raises his hand and flicks the top of his fingers in the officer’s face. It was a stupid practical joke that has gone wrong.
“This is a man of previous good character, who’s had to go across the country to come here today. He accepts he’s done wrong, in hindsight, in the euphoria of winning the match.”
Magistrate John Lee said: “When there are 40-odd thousand people around the police have a great deal of tension to deal with.
“It is not a good idea to go around playing tricks on them. Don’t do it to a police officer outside a football match.”
Magistrates decided not to make a football banning order, after Blair had been subject to bail conditions, prohibiting him from going within a one-mile radius of Etihad Stadium in Manchester, during matches.