Man jailed for racist internet post

A man who used a social networking website to post sectarian comments about Catholics and Celtic supporters has been jailed for eight months.

Stephen Birrell, 28, from Glasgow, was also handed a five-year football banning order at Glasgow Sheriff Court for writing the comments on a Facebook page titled Neil Lennon Should Be Banned.



He admitted writing the religiously and racially motivated comments between February 28 and March 8 this year.



Sentencing him, Sheriff Bill Totten said the courts had to send "a clear message to deter others who might be tempted to behave in this way".







One of the comments, posted a day before a Celtic v Rangers game on March 2 this year, read: "Hope they all die. Simple. Catholic scumbags ha ha."



Two days after the match, he wrote: "Proud to hate Fenian tattie farmers."



His lawyer, Iain McLennan, told the sheriff that Birrell had accepted what he had done but struggles to understand the severity of his actions.



He said: "He finds it difficult just to comprehend how serious what he did was. But he does accept that what he did was wrong and gratuitously offensive."



The sheriff told Birrell that he had escaped a longer sentence because his comments hadn't made specific threats against individuals.



But he said he wanted to "send a clear message that the right-thinking people of Glasgow and Scotland will not allow any behaviour of this nature, or allow any place in our society for hate crimes".



He said: "The use of modern communications to spread or support abuse or target groups of people because of their ethnic or racial background has no place in our modern society and has no place in genuine support for any football club."



The sheriff also reduced Birrell's jail term because he had pleaded guilty, cutting the time from 12 months to eight.



Under the football banning order, Birrell cannot attend any football match in the UK for five years. He will also have to inform police and comply with any decisions they make if he wishes to attend a game abroad.



Birrell, dressed in a tracksuit with his belongings in a yellow plastic carrier bag, spoke only to confirm his name and address.



As he was led to the cells, he turned and waved to his friends and family who had come to see him sentenced.







Birrell was arrested and charged in April during a police crackdown on sectarian hatred on the internet.

Specialist officers began investigating hate comments after an ill-tempered Scottish Cup replay at Celtic Park. The so-called "shame game" brought simmering tensions between the clubs' supporters to a head.



The match saw three Rangers players given red cards and ended in confrontation between Rangers' then assistant manager Ally McCoist and Celtic manager Neil Lennon.



Disruption was also seen off the pitch, with around 30 fans arrested at Celtic Park.



An Old Firm summit chaired by First Minister Alex Salmond was held in the wake of the game and an eight-point action plan was agreed.



Controversial legislation aimed at tackling sectarianism is making its way through Holyrood. If passed, the Scottish Government's Offensive Behaviour at Football and Threatening Communications Bill will create two offences which relate to behaviour deemed to "incite religious, racial or other forms of hatred" in and around football grounds and on the internet.



The Bill would mean those convicted could spend as long as five years in prison and be banned from football grounds. It was intended as emergency legislation but the timetable was delayed because of concerns about its lack of clarity. The "need" for new laws has also seen disagreement.



Speaking after Birrell was jailed, Scotland's Solicitor General Lesley Thomson said sectarianism was "completely unacceptable in modern Scotland".



She said: "The Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service is absolutely determined to play its part in confronting the problems of sectarianism, religious offences and related disorder and violence.



"Whether the offences are at the football match itself, travelling to or from it or, as in this case, online threatening communications, we will do all in our power to bring those who perpetrate such crimes to justice.



"Prosecutors will continue to prosecute anyone indulging in such behaviour which is completely unacceptable in modern Scotland."



PA

News
people
News
people And here is why...
News
peopleStella McCartney apologises over controversial Instagram picture
Life and Style
Laid bare: the Good2Go app ensures people have a chance to make their intentions clear about having sex
techCould Good2Go end disputes about sexual consent - without being a passion-killer?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Burr remains the baker to beat on the Great British Bake Off
tvRichard remains the baker to beat as Chetna begins to flake
News
i100
Sport
footballArsenal 4 Galatasaray 1: Wenger celebrates 18th anniversary in style
Arts and Entertainment
Amazon has added a cautionary warning to Tom and Jerry cartoons on its streaming service
tv
News
people
News
The village was originally named Llansanffraid-ym-Mechain after the Celtic female Saint Brigit, but the name was changed 150 years ago to Llansantffraid – a decision which suggests the incorrect gender of the saint
newsWelsh town changes its name, but can you spot the difference?
Arts and Entertainment
Kristen Scott Thomas in Electra at the Old Vic
theatreReview: Kristin Scott Thomas is magnificent in a five-star performance of ‘Electra’
News
Destructive discourse: Jewish boys look at anti-Semitic graffiti sprayed on to the walls of the synagogue in March 2006, near Tel Aviv
peopleAt the start of Yom Kippur and with anti-Semitism flourishing, one Jew can no longer ignore his identity
Life and Style
Couples who boast about their relationship have been condemned as the most annoying Facebook users
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Hayley Williams performs with Paramore in New York
musicParamore singer says 'Steal Your Girl' is itself stolen from a New Found Glory hit
News
i100
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Day In a Page

Italian couples fake UK divorce scam on an ‘industrial scale’

Welcome to Maidenhead, the divorce capital of... Italy

A look at the the legal tourists who exploited our liberal dissolution rules
Time to stop running: At the start of Yom Kippur and with anti-Semitism flourishing, one Jew can no longer ignore his identity

Time to stop running

At the start of Yom Kippur and with anti-Semitism flourishing, one Jew can no longer ignore his identity
Tom and Jerry cartoons now carry a 'racial prejudice' warning on Amazon

Tom and Jerry cartoons now carry a 'racial prejudice' warning on Amazon

The vintage series has often been criticised for racial stereotyping
An app for the amorous: Could Good2Go end disputes about sexual consent - without being a passion-killer?

An app for the amorous

Could Good2Go end disputes about sexual consent - without being a passion-killer?
Llansanffraid is now Llansantffraid. Welsh town changes its name, but can you spot the difference?

Llansanffraid is now Llansantffraid

Welsh town changes its name, but can you spot the difference?
Charlotte Riley: At the peak of her powers

Charlotte Riley: At the peak of her powers

After a few early missteps with Chekhov, her acting career has taken her to Hollywood. Next up is a role in the BBC’s gangster drama ‘Peaky Blinders’
She's having a laugh: Britain's female comedians have never had it so good

She's having a laugh

Britain's female comedians have never had it so good, says stand-up Natalie Haynes
Sistine Chapel to ‘sing’ with new LED lights designed to bring Michelangelo’s masterpiece out of the shadows

Let there be light

Sistine Chapel to ‘sing’ with new LEDs designed to bring Michelangelo’s masterpiece out of the shadows
Great British Bake Off, semi-final, review: Richard remains the baker to beat

Tensions rise in Bake Off's pastry week

Richard remains the baker to beat as Chetna begins to flake
Paris Fashion Week, spring/summer 2015: Time travel fashion at Louis Vuitton in Paris

A look to the future

It's time travel fashion at Louis Vuitton in Paris
The 10 best bedspreads

The 10 best bedspreads

Before you up the tog count on your duvet, add an extra layer and a room-changing piece to your bed this autumn
Arsenal vs Galatasaray: Five things we learnt from the Emirates

Arsenal vs Galatasaray

Five things we learnt from the Gunners' Champions League victory at the Emirates
Stuart Lancaster’s long-term deal makes sense – a rarity for a decision taken by the RFU

Lancaster’s long-term deal makes sense – a rarity for a decision taken by the RFU

This deal gives England a head-start to prepare for 2019 World Cup, says Chris Hewett
Ebola outbreak: The children orphaned by the virus – then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection

The children orphaned by Ebola...

... then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection
Pride: Are censors pandering to homophobia?

Are censors pandering to homophobia?

US film censors have ruled 'Pride' unfit for under-16s, though it contains no sex or violence