It is believed to be the first time that someone will serve prison time for racially abusing a footballer online
A West Bromwich Albion fan has been jailed for eight weeks for racially abusing footballer Romaine Sawyers on social media.
Simon Silwood, 50, from Kingswinford, West Midlands, was sentenced at Birmingham Magistrates’ Court after being found guilty earlier this month of sending Sawyers a ‘malicious communication’.
Following West Brom’s 5-0 defeat to Manchester City on January 26 2021, Sawyers – who is currently on loan at Stoke City – received a racist message from Silwood.
Silwood will serve half of his sentence in prison and half on licence, with the 50-year-old also ordered to pay £500 in compensation to the player and £500 in prosecution costs.
Additonally, he has been permanently banned from attending West From fixtures.
The sentence is believed to be the first in Britain that will see someone serve prison time for racially abusing a footballer online.
#wba fan Simon Silwood sentenced to 8 weeks in prison for racially abusing Romaine Sawyers online. He will serve 4 weeks, with 4 more on licence, and pay £500 in compensation plus £628 in costs. #scfc
— Rob Dorsett (@RobDorsettSky) September 30, 2021
District Judge Briony Clarke, who was Passing sentence, said: “This is, Mr Silwood, a serious offence. There is no place for racism or racist abuse online. This clearly, in my view, crosses the custody threshold.
“I assess the remorse you have for your actions as very minimal indeed.”
During the trial, Silwood claimed that when he posted the word “baboon”, he was instead intending to say “buffoon”, but that his phone had autocorrected it while he was sending the message.
Following the verdict, Sawyers issued a statement where he asked social media companies to ‘do more’ and called on his fellow professionals to report any incident of racist abuse that they see online.
He said: “I welcome the custodial sentence today issued to Simon Silwood and I am now focused on putting this incident behind me.
“Racial abuse towards anyone, in any circumstance, is totally unacceptable, and I hope this case will serve as a deterrent to others.
“This is an incident that has affected me deeply, but I would like to encourage fellow players to report all racial abuse to the police. We must together stand strong in order to rid the game, and wider society, of this hideous behaviour.
“It is widely accepted that social media companies must do more to stop the publication of racism on their platforms. I again urge them to take the necessary action required to prevent anyone from receiving the abuse I experienced.
“I would like to thank PC Stuart Ward and Ian Skidmore of West Bromwich Albion for their tireless support and professionalism during what has been a difficult eight months for me personally.
“I would also like to applaud the Baggies fan who bravely came forward to report what they had seen. It is important we all remain vigilant in the fight against racism, so please, if you are aware of racism, it is essential you report it.
“It is important to me to turn this negative experience into something positive and I will, therefore, donate the £500 awarded to me as compensation to a local West Midlands charity.”
A statement from Romaine Sawyers.
— West Bromwich Albion (@WBA) September 30, 2021
Also speaking on the sentence given, Mark Johnson of the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) said: “In the 21st Century, it should be incomprehensible how a so-called football fan can abuse a player based on race, let alone a player on the team he purports to support.
“Silwood deliberately chose a word known to have clear racist connotations to abuse a footballer due to the colour of his skin.
“Such behaviour will not be tolerated in football and will be prosecuted by the CPS. As this is a hate crime, we will apply for a harsher sentence to reflect that.
“I would like to thank the witness for bringing Silwood’s post to the attention of West Bromwich Albion which then reported it to the West Midlands police.
“CPS West Midlands is working closely with the West Midlands Police Force Football Unit and their dedicated Hate Crime Football Officer to ensure that individuals who commit these types of offences are brought to justice.”
As well as working closely with the West Midlands Police Force Football Unit, the CPS have also stated that they are working with organisations such as Premier League, the EFL and the FA, along with the police, clubs and player bodies, to explain exactly what sort of evidence is required in order for a charge to be passed.
“There is no room in the game, nor elsewhere, for racism,” said Elizabeth Jenkins of the CPS. “Where there is sufficient evidence and it is in the public interest, we will prosecute such cases and seek an increased sentenced on conviction.
“Hate crimes such as these have a massive impact on players and their mental health. The CPS takes this kind of offending very seriously and this case shows that where offensive content is reported to the police we can successfully bring offenders to justice.”
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