An Everton fan has been cleared of taking a flare into the Stadium of Light when his side played Sunderland earlier this season.
Owen William Dempsey, 26, was accused of bringing the item into the ground as the two teams faced each other in a Monday evening game in September.
About 20 minutes after kick-off in the game, which the Toffees went on to win 3-0, stewards and police noticed blue smoke coming from a section housing away supporters in the North Stand’s upper seating area.
Stewards and police officers went up to the row Dempsey was sitting in and he handed over a canister which was on the ground.
He was then arrested and taken to Southwick police station on suspicion of possession of a firework/flare at a sporting event, an offence which he was later charged with.
Dempsey responded to all questions with the answer “no comment”.
In a trial at Sunderland Magistrates’ Court, CCTV footage was played showing Dempsey, who denied the offence, sat down in his seat in the ground before standing up a short time before the smoke began to engulf supporters.
Dempsey said that he had only picked up a canister from the floor and handed it to a steward, adding that it must have been another supporter in the away end who brought it into the ground and discharged it.
Defence solicitor David McCormack told the hearing: “The CCTV you have seen, my submission is that it is completely inconclusive.
“You have heard Mr Dempsey’s evidence that it was not him.
“If you are at a football game and you decide to ignite a smoke canister, anybody with half a brain would drop it and let it roll away from them.
“My submission is that this is not proved.”
After reviewing the CCTV evidence, magistrates found Dempsey, of Pendle, in Bootle, Liverpool, not guilty of the offence.
Chairman of the bench Joy Atkinson said: “We find the case against you not proved. “We can’t tell from the CCTV exactly what is happening, whether it was you Mr Dempsey or not.
“There are no eye witnesses to this incident either.”
Asked if he had any comment on leaving court after being found not guilty, Dempsey, who has “EFC 1878” tattooed on his arm, said: “Up the Toffees.”