A man who mockingly held up a photo of Bradley Lowery at a football match was taking part in “enjoyable banter”, a court heard.

Dale Houghton, 31, admitted a public order offence after incident at Sheffield Wednesday’s clash with Sunderland on Friday (September 29).

Pictures circulated on social media showing two men laughing at Hillsborough with Houghton holding up a picture of Sunderland fan Bradley Lowery – who captured the nation’s hearts during his neuroblastoma fight aged six in 2017 – to the camera.

Read more: Actions of fan who mocked death of Bradley Lowery ‘utterly deplorable’, says judge

A judge described his actions on Monday (October 2) as “utterly deplorable”.

District Judge James Gould, who said he had seen the photographs, told Houghton: “You are holding up your phone and you were plainly revelling in what you were doing.”

Houghton, who appeared in court wearing a pink coat over a grey sweatshirt and joggers, was “disgusted by what he did”, defence lawyer Constance Coombs told the court.

Prosecutor Jade Scott said Houghton, of Rotherham, gave “full and frank admissions” when he was interviewed by the police.

The Northern Echo: Dale Hougton, left, has admitted a public order offence.Dale Hougton, left, has admitted a public order offence. (Image: SOCIAL MEDIA)

She said he told the officers he was taking part in “enjoyable banter” and “that was the reason he was smiling”.

Ms Coombs said there had been “mutual goading” between the Wednesday and Sunderland fans and he “took it too far”.

She said the Sunderland fans were waving Sheffield United badges at the home fans and “my client took the deplorable decision to show the picture of Bradley Lowery”.

Ms Coombs said that what he did was “out of character” and “he’s very remorseful for his actions”.

She said: “His behaviour was totally unacceptable.”

He has now lost his job as a window fitter because of his actions.

A Sheffield Wednesday spokesperson said: "We reiterate what we said over the weekend. There is absolutely no room for this kind of behaviour in football or the wider community."

In a victim impact statement Bradley’s mum Gemma said: “This image has made me feel so many emotions, I find it hard to put into words.”

She said it was “disrespectful” to her son but also to other children who were suffering from cancer.

The Northern Echo: Bradley LoweryBradley Lowery (Image: The Northern Echo)

Ms Lowery said: “I feel upset that these two men have used this image of Bradley to get a reaction from the Sunderland fans.”

Judge Gould noted that the statement went on to describe the incident as “unforgiveable” and that “she has nothing but loving memories of Bradley”.

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Houghton admitted one count of intentionally causing harassment, alarm, or distress by displaying any writing, sign, or other visible representation, which is threatening, abusive or insulting.

He was given bail on condition that he does not attend regulated football grounds in the UK, does not go within a mile of Hillsborough Stadium on Sheffield Wednesday match-days and completes a drug intervention programme.

The court heard that it is probable that Houghton will face a football banning order.

The judge was told he has a previous conviction for an “unrelated” offence four years ago which resulted in a fine.

The images drew mass condemnation on social media over the weekend.