A West Bromwich Albion fan was jailed on Thursday (30 Sept) for racially abusing player Romaine Sawyers online after the culprit was tracked down by a football hate crime officer.

PC Stuart Ward launched an immediate investigation after being alerted to the offensive post from Simon Silwood, 50, in January this year, which left the footballer feeling “harassed, alarmed and distressed”.

The West Bromwich Albion fan allegedly suggested Sawyers, 29, should win the “Baboon d’Or” – a sarcastic reference to the prestigious Ballon d’Or trophy. Sawyers, who is currently on loan at Stoke City, said he felt “numb” after reading the message.

Birmingham-born footballer Romaine Sawyers is an active supporter of anti-racism football campaign organisation Kick It Out.

“The word has left me feeling harassed, alarmed and distressed and I find the message to be racist based on the colour of my skin. The whole incident has left me extremely upset. I find it difficult to believe that in 2021 there are still people out in society who believe it is acceptable to behave like this.

“I find it even more disgusting that this comment was made on social media by someone sat behind a computer or a mobile phone.”

The unacceptable racist comment by Silwood was reported to police by the player’s club – West Bromwich Albion – who PC Ward promptly worked alongside to try and identify Silwood through their database.

It led to 50-year-old Silwood being traced and arrested at his home the same day as the racist social media posting was brought to the attention of police.

Simon Silwood has been convicted of racist online abuseWMP
Simon Silwood has been jailed for eight weeks for his online racist abuse

Silwood was convicted of sending an offensive message under section 127 of the Communications Act following a trial at Walsall Magistrates Court earlier this month.

Passing sentence at Birmingham Magistrates Court on Thursday (30 Sept), District Judge Briony Clarke 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.

“In my view it (the offence) falls into the category of greatest harm. We have to accept it had a wider impact and a substantial impact on Mr Sawyers.”

Silwood, of Randall Close, Kingswinford, was jailed for eight weeks and ordered to pay a £128 victim surcharge and total of £1,000 in compensation and costs. He had already been given a lifetime ban by West Bromwich Albion following the conviction.

West Bromwich Albion football player Romaine Sawyers was left "numb" following the racist abuseWest Bromwich Albion
West Bromwich Albion football player Romaine Sawyers felt “harassed, alarmed and distressed” following the racist abuse

PC Ward had only been in post as the UK’s first dedicated hate crime officer within a football unit for a matter of weeks when the offence occurred.

He said: “Abusing anyone for the colour of their skin is disgusting and can never, ever be condoned. There’s no place for racism in football or society in general.

“Silwood is old enough to know such appalling behaviour is not only wrong, but is absolutely deplorable.

“Sadly we’ve seen a rise in online hate crime over the last 12 months and we won’t hesitate to take action against those responsible, as this case shows.

“As part of my role I’m working with partners to change this unacceptable culture of abuse and this includes education around discrimination.

“I know from personal experience how being a victim of racism hurts while offenders risk their own aspirations through getting a criminal record.

“I would like to thank Romaine and West Bromwich Albion for their assistance during this investigation.”

Any incidents of discrimination in football, physical or online, can also be reported to Kick It Out here.


 

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