A man has been fined and given a suspended prison sentence after sending a “hateful and racist” post aimed at the black footballers who missed penalties in England’s Euro 2020 final defeat.
Hugh Laidlaw, 50, posted an offensive image and comments soon after the July 2021 shootout on the Metal Detecting UK Facebook page but other online users were so offended that they alerted police, the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) said.
Laidlaw, of Reading, Berkshire, then told police that he had accidentally shared what he thought at the time was a funny post after having a few drinks.
He then tried to pretend that his account had been hacked to distance himself from the post.
Laidlaw was given a suspended eight-week prison sentence after being found guilty of sending by a public communication network an offensive message at Reading Magistrates’ Court on Monday.
He was also ordered to pay a £1,000, fine, costs of £775 and a surcharge of £128.
England drew 1-1 in the Euro 2020 final with Italy but lost 3-2 on penalties after Marcus Rashford, Jadon Sancho and Bukayo Saka missed the crucial spot-kicks in the shootout.
After Monday’s hearing, senior crown prosecutor Benjamin May said: “Hugh Laidlaw’s hateful and racist post was a direct attack on England’s players and those who it was shared with were left disgusted and upset.
“Racist abuse won’t be tolerated and, as this case has shown, where offensive content is reported to the police and our legal tests are met, we can successfully bring offenders to justice.”
CPS sports lead prosecutor Douglas Mackay said: “Over recent years and months, hate crimes relating to sporting events have been on the rise.
“At the CPS, we play a crucial role in tackling these crimes and making our national sport inclusive and safe to watch. There is no place for hate in football and hate crimes such as this have a significant impact on victims.”
The CPS said it is working with the police, clubs and organisations including the Premier League, the English Football League and the Football Association to help them understand what sort of evidence is needed to support potential charges and protect players when allegations of an offence are made.