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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.

Express & Star

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A WOMAN attacked several police officers, biting one, after her arrest during an English Defence League rally, a court heard.

Police initially went to the aid of Antonia Claire Evans, who was suffering a suspected broken arm after a scuffle during the demonstration, in November last year.

However, Durham Crown Court heard that a stand-off developed, before the officers tried to lift Evans out through the crowd.

Rachel Masters, prosecuting, said Evans shouted and swore and, despite her injury, lashed out at the officers with her injured arm.

She punched another officer in the groin and headbutted a third after they tried to pin her to the ground.

Amid efforts to put her into a police van, to remove her and place her in a cell at a police station, she continued to struggle, biting a custody officer’s index finger.

Miss Masters said the officer had to hit her three times to make her release her grip.

The officer’s finger was cut by the bite, while another officer lost clumps of hair grabbed by Evans during the struggle.

Miss Masters said the arrest at the rally, in Preston, Lancashire, was the culmination of a series of incidents involving Evans.

It included biting a security guard in the chest on June 3 as he tried to detain her outside the Tesco shop in Newton Aycliffe, County Durham, on suspicion of shoplifting.

In a further incident, in October, she set a Staffordshire bull terrier and an alsatian on her then partner as he left her home in Newton Aycliffe after a row.

Miss Masters said both dogs attacked and bit the man several times, while she landed several punches.

Evans, 24, of Mellanby Crescent, admitted four charges of assault causing actual bodily harm, three of common assault and being the owner of a dog dangerously out of control.

Julie Clemitson, for Evans, said she has spent 123 days in custody, during which time she has progressed with psychiatric assistance.

Judge John Evans said that because of the time she had spent in custody, he could pass a prison sentence of 51 weeks, suspended for two years.

She must undergo 12 months of probation supervision, to include sessions addressing alcohol misuse, while continuing to receive psychiatric help.

She was also banned from owning dogs for seven years.

Northern Echo