Red card threat player jailed for driving at referee

A Sunday league footballer who drove his car at a referee who wanted to send him off has been jailed for 24 weeks.

Joseph Rimmer, 28, reacted angrily when David Harkness reached into his pocket during a match at Portland Street playing fields, Southport.

He left the field and came back in his 4x4 vehicle, causing the referee and players to run for their lives, Liverpool Crown Court was told.

Rimmer, of Satinwood Crescent, Melling, admitted affray.

The match in February between Rimmer's team Lonsdale and local rivals Harrington had initially passed without incident, the court heard.

But Rimmer flew into a rage after Mr Harkness ignored the player's claim he had been fouled and then awarded a free kick against him for dissent.

He continued to hurl abuse at the referee, who reached into his pocket to book the player, said Derek Jones, prosecuting.

Rimmer told him: "If you book me or send me off, you know what will happen."

Mr Harkness took that as a threat, Mr Jones said, but before he could be shown the red card the player stated: "I'm going to run you down."

"He then walked across a neighbouring pitch as another game was going on," Mr Jones added.

When other players shouted to him to get off, he told them to watch him "run the ref over".

Gun threat

"He went over to his Range Rover and drove toward the pitch," he added.

The vehicle came within five yards of the referee, the court heard.

Witnesses statements read to the court said people reacted with "panic and fear" and some had to run or arch their backs to get out of the way.

When Rimmer got out of the car, he made a gun shape with his hand and shouted towards Mr Harkness: "I'm going to shoot you."

In his victim impact statement, read to the court Mr Harkness said he feared for his life.

"After 35 years I now fear I cannot continue as a referee," he added.

"I have not slept through fear that the defendant will find out where I live and carry out his threat to shoot me."

Philip Tully, defending, said in mitigation that Rimmer was "ashamed" of his conduct and accepted that Mr Harkness was refereeing to the "best of his ability".

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