MAGPIES footballer Jacob Smeeton escaped a prison term when he was sentenced with seven other men for their part in two fights in the streets of Weymouth.

Judge Richard Onslow told them he thought about sending them all to jail but decided to impose fines instead because of their previous good character.

Earlier, he saw CCTV footage at Dorchester Crown Court showing the men involved in a brawl in St Thomas Street and then minutes later in a dark doorway near the junction with St Alban Street.

The cameras showed the men punching and kicking each other after pushes and shoves turned more violent in the late-night confrontations.

The fights came at the end of an evening last May that saw a group of friends from Yeovil visit Weymouth to celebrate a birthday.

But their fun ended in an altercation in a bar where their military-style outfits prompted comments from real soldier Thomas Matthews, 20, of Buddleia Close, Weymouth.

Patrick Mason, representing Philip Ormrod, 19, of The Park, Yeovil, said the trouble started when the group were in the Barracuda in Weymouth wearing Army costumes. Customer Thomas Matthews – a sapper in the Royal Engineers – approached and asked them why they were wearing military clothes.

Matthews told them they were disrespectful to the Army but the conflict did not start until the groups met up in the street.

The judge told the birthday revellers they had drunk too much and then came across another party of young men.

During the encounter, words were exchanged with the result that they all became involved in kicking and punching in full view of members of the public and passers-by.

He said: “Mercifully, it was a brief incident and no weapons were used and there were no serious injuries. About five or 10 minutes later there was a confrontation in a dark alleyway with scuffling and punching.

“I don’t know why it is that all of you think you can come to Weymouth and have too much to drink and then have a punch-up later as if it is no one’s business but your own.

“You caused considerable work for the police and for this court and considerable expense for the country.

“If you had previous convictions I would be thinking of sending you all to prison. You are all young men of whom people speak highly.

“Two or three of you have your own businesses and are clearly going to do well in life. I take the view no purpose would be served by sending you to prison.”

Smeeton, 20, of Arlington Avenue, Yeovil, pictured below, was fined £400 after pleading guilty to a count of using threatening words and behaviour. His counsel Paul Hester said the professional footballer was trying to act as peacemaker.

He added: “But it all kicks off and for his pains he was attacked.”

Smeeton’s brother Joseph Smeeton, 21, a football coach of the same home address, was also fined £400 for the same count.

Matthews, who pleaded guilty to a similar charge was fined £400 and a further fine of £300 for a count of affray. Nicholas Bellamy, 20, of Argyle Court, Weymouth, was fined £300 for affray.

Matthew Perks, 20, of Horton Back Lane, Chetnole, and Ormrod were each fined £400 for affray.

Matthew Clark, 20, of Forde Park, Yeovil, was fined £400 for threatening words and behaviour as was Matthew Pitcher, 20, of Great Orchard, Ilminster.

All eight were ordered to pay £200 each costs.

SHORE leave turned into trouble for five drunken sailors who pitched into early-hours fights in Weymouth town centre, a court was told.

A judge at Dorchester Crown Court told the ratings from HMS Cumberland that they should have been jailed for their attacks on people in Weymouth during their night out last August.

But he opted for fines instead after hearing from senior officers that the men had acted out of character and the RN had put them on restricted leave since the incident.

The five – Ricky Stenning, 22, of Brighton Road, Croydon; Mark Bowker, 22, of Brook Croft Road, Manchester; Matthew Newbold, 19, of Broomfield Lane, Sheffield; Thomas Bailey, 19, of Kelly Close, Plymouth; and Andrew Blagg, 20, of Edridge Close, Bushey – returned to court for sentencing after all pleading guilty to affray.

Stenning also admitted assault occasioning actual bodily harm and Bowker admitted one count of common assault.

Each man was fined £1,400 for affray and ordered to pay £200 costs. Stenning and Bowker were also fined £600 for their counts of assault and to pay compensation to the man they attacked in St Alban Street.