A man has admitted to punching a police horse after England’s World Cup semi-final defeat to Croatia.
Scott Spurling, 23, has been handed a community order for striking Quantock, one of the police horses on duty in Weston-super-Mare, Somerset, shortly after England crashed out of the competition.
North Somerset Magistrates’ Court heard Spurling was involved in a fight outside the Allstars bar at about 9.50pm.
He first punched 57-year-old Ron Ganfield, a former Premier League match official, who attempted to pull him away, the court was told.
Police Sergeant David Williams, riding horse Quantock, used a “leg yield” – moving diagonally – to break up the crowd. When Quantock moved across, Spurling, of Weston-super-Mare, punched the horse to the left hand side of his head.
Spurling admitted the three charges and was sentenced by magistrates on Thursday.
“As PS Williams, riding police horse Quantock, was using a leg yield move, which means that the horse was moving diagonally, Mr Spurling punched the police horse to the left hand side of the head,” Pearce said.
“Mr Spurling was then heard to cheer the action.
“Pc Hodder witnessed Mr Spurling punch the horse and approached him in order to effect an arrest.
“Mr Spurling aimed a right hand punch towards the face of Pc Hodder. His attempt failed and his punch landed on the stab vest of Pc Hodder.”
Spurling was then arrested and taken to Patchway police station in Bristol, Pearce said.
The court heard Pc Hodder and Quantock did not sustain any injuries.
In a victim impact statement, self-employed builder Ganfield said he had been left “wary” of drunk people following the incident.
Representing Spurling, Sue Cameron said Ganfield’s son was also outside the Allstars bar and had assaulted her client with his belt.
She said Spurling admitted hitting Ganfield in “excessive self-defence” after being pushed.
“In relation to the punch to the police officer, he accepts he punched Pc Hodder but he didn’t mean to punch at his head,” Cameron said.
“He did act instinctively because he knew he was going to be put on the floor.”
Cameron told magistrates that her client punched Quantock after being pushed back by the horse.
“We accept that any physical contact of that nature with an animal is going to cause unnecessary suffering. There wasn’t any injury,” she said.
“There may have been a psychological impact on the horse but he is described as being well the following day and grazing in the paddock.”
She highlighted that Quantock was being used in public service to disperse the crowd.
“Mr Spurling has seen these animals in public order situations where he has seen people trampled,” Cameron said.
“He felt he was in danger of being trampled or being hit with a baton by the officer on the horse.
“I’m not saying the horse deserved to be punched but what I am saying is if you are using an animal in crowd control, perhaps that’s going to happen.”
The court heard Spurling has no previous convictions and there had been a “dramatic impact” on his life from the incident.
He has lost his job as a support worker and is signed off sick from work.
Sergeant Edward Amor, of Avon and Somerset Police’s mounted section, said: “We will not tolerate violence towards our staff, including any of our working animals.
“Thankfully neither the officer nor Quantock were injured following the incident.
“The Body Worn Video was able to capture the incident despite the busy scene following the World Cup game.
“This helped us to present a compelling case which resulted in the defendant pleaded guilty to causing unnecessary suffering to a protected animal in court, alongside the other charges.
“I’m also pleased we were able to convict on this stronger charge – assaults on force animals is usually dealt with as criminal damage.”