THE STORY started so well. As soon as homophobic abuse was heard coming from home fans at the West Ham ground – apparently directed at supporters of visiting Brighton & Hove Albion – police were on the case.
Two men were arrested during the match and an investigation led to two further men being charged. However, the courts seemed more relaxed when the suspects appeared before them.
Early last month, the men arrested at the match appeared at Thames Magistrates Court. They were:
•Thomas Hill, 25 ,of New Road, Slough; and
•Samuel Marshall, 21, of Herbert Road, Hornchurch.
Both men pleaded guilty to an offence under Section 5 of the Public Order Act, and they were each fined just £200 plus costs.
Later in the month, the two men found as a result of the police investigation appeared at the same court. They were:
•Damian Critten, 24, of Farm Road, Rainham; and
•Jack Wood, 25, of Arbour Square, London.
These two also pleaded guilty to an offence under Section 5 of the Public Order Act. They were fined £120 each and given three year Football Banning Orders.
As news of the verdicts came out, West Ham Football Club issued a statement reaffirming its position of zero tolerance of any form of discrimination.
Chief Inspector Chris Green of Met Operations said, “This investigation and these convictions show that we will not tolerate homophobic behaviour or hate crime at football matches and more broadly in our city. If you have information about people committing these type of despicable offences, please share that information with police. These offenders may happen to support the same football team as you, but they do not deserve your support.”
These are welcome sentiments – but the police need support from the Courts, not just the public, if we are to stamp out homophobic abuse in public places.
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Homophobic abuse disgrace at West Ham