Man who threw bottle at Bolt's 100m Olympic final is sentenced


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The Independent Online

A man who hurled a plastic beer bottle to “put off” Usain Bolt at the start of the Olympic 100m final was today given a community order.

Ashley Gill-Webb, 34, risked inflicting "massive embarrassment on the country" by attempting to delay the start of the Olympic showpiece as millions of people around the world watched on.

Gill-Webb managed to sneak into the event before hurtling abuse at the competitors as they lined up in the starting blocks.

Last month he was found guilty of public disorder at Stratford Magistrates' Court after attempting to disrupt the sprint final on August 5.

And today, he appeared at Thames Magistrates' Court, where he was spared jail and given an eight-week community order.

District Judge William Ashworth, told Gill-Webb, who has bi-polar disorder: "Your intention was to target the highest profile event at the London Olympics and put off Usain Bolt.

"The potential harm of triggering a false start was significant. By good fortune you failed.

"You did however spoil the occasion for some spectators and tarnished the spirit of the Games."

Gill-Webb's actions meant spectators, who had paid up to £4,000 for a seat at the sell-out competition, had missed the showpiece race.

Dutch judo champion and London 2012 70kg bronze medallist Edith Bosch who confronted Gill-Webb after he hurled the bottle said she had missed the race because of the incident.

Gill-Webb, of South Milford, near Leeds, was found guilty of intending to cause 100m finalists harassment, alarm or distress by using threatening, abusive or disorderly behaviour, contrary to Section 4 of the Public Order Act.

The judge told Gill-Webb: "You suffer from bi-polar disorder. At the time of the offence you were in the throes of a manic episode. This made you over-confident and your behaviour risky.

"I have reduced your punishment to take account of the effects of your illness."

As well as the eight week community order, Gill-Webb will be electronically monitored and live under a 7pm to 7am curfew. He was also ordered to pay a £1,500 towards costs.

His behaviour had been "serious" enough to demand punishment but he is unlikely to offend again, according to the judge.

Gill-Webb tricked his way in to the Olympic Park in Stratford, east London, by using an old ticket to gain access to the stadium for the August 5 final, although when arrested police did not find a ticket on him.

He hurled abuse at athletes, including world record holder Bolt, and then threw a bottle on to the track.

It landed behind the lane markers and the world's top sprinters at the start of the blue riband event.

Bolt, the world record holder, won in 9.63 seconds, ahead of Jamaican team mate and 2011 World champion Yohan Blake.

The high-profile nature of the incident and the fact that the eyes of the world were watching were aggravating factors along with the location from which the bottle had been hurled, according to prosecutor Helen Shaw.

It was a "once-in-a-four year event watched by millions of people around the world," she said.

"Some of the people who were in that area missed the event and had paid up to £4,000 a ticket."

Tom Barley, mitigating, said Gill-Webb risked inflicting "massive embarrassment on the country".

Mr Barley added: "He would have looked like a drunken yob on that occasion."

Noting that alcohol did not have any influence, Mr Barley suggested that for someone dealing with a mental illness "it must have been the worst day for it to happen in the 100m final."

The court heard Gill-Webb pushed his way to the front of an exclusive seating area at the stadium and started shouting: "Usain, I want you to lose. Usain, you are bad, you are an arsehole".

He then threw the plastic beer bottle as the race started before being escorted from the stadium and arrested.

Student Farzin Mirshahi heard him yell: "Believe in Blake, no Usain".

Her brother, Kiya Mirshahi, heard: "Usain, no, Justin, you are a druggie, believe in Blake, no Usain, no."

Bolt and Blake later said they were unaware of the incident.

Bronze medallist Gatlin said in media interviews: "It was a little distraction and I didn't know what it was.

"But when you're in those blocks and the whole stadium's quiet, you can hear a pin drop."

He said the incident had not affected the race: "You just have to block it out and go out there and do what you got to do."

Gill-Webb, who did not give evidence during his trial, originally denied throwing the bottle, but his DNA was later found on it.

He later said he could not remember the incident.

The father-of-two has since lost his job due to adverse publicity triggered by the case, and is being treated for his illness, the court heard.