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A West Bromwich Albion fan convicted of the “despicable” racial abuse of one of his own team’s players has had his appeal against conviction rejected.
Simon Silwood posted a message saying Romaine Sawyers should win the “Baboon d’Or” – a reference to the Ballon d’Or trophy – following his team’s 5-0 defeat to Manchester City at the Hawthorns on January 26.
The 50-year-old was jailed for eight weeks at Walsall Magistrates’ Court in September after a district judge ruled he was “not a credible witness” and had meant the post to be offensive.
Silwood, who had no previous convictions, then appealed against both his conviction and sentence.
You - and other people inclined to mete out racial abuse - must understand right-thinking people are repelled by it
Judge Jonathan Gosling
Hearing that appeal at Wolverhampton Crown Court on Friday, a judge told Silwood his version of events were “inconceivable” and – upholding the original conviction and sentence – sent him back to jail for eight weeks, less the six days he had already served.
Judge Jonathan Gosling, who said Silwood’s decision to appeal had been “unwise”, told him: “You – and other people inclined to mete out racial abuse – must understand right-thinking people are repelled by it.
“We enjoy free speech in this country and to abuse it in the way we see here, requires severe punishment.
“Only by that means can this scourge be addressed.”
He added: “The message you posted that night was despicable – and seen as such by all who had the misfortune to read it.”
The court heard how the three judges hearing the appeal had “unhesitatingly come to the conclusion the appellant has not told us the truth”.
“(Silwood) deliberately sent the message containing the word baboon and accordingly his appeal against conviction is dismissed,” added Judge Gosling.
Silwood’s central claim at trial was an “auto-correct” feature on his iPhone meant he “inadvertently” posted the racial slur on a West Bromwich Albion online fan zone website, rather than his intended remark – buffoon.
But Judge Gosling, after assessing the evidence, said: “We reject his evidence, because we don’t believe it – that he didn’t notice the correction, sent the message, and quickly went on to another site.
“It is inconceivable he did not also go on to the site thereafter to see if his comment had attracted any response.”
That was a deliberate lie - he had posted a comment and he knew it
Judge Jonathan Gosling
The judge said Silwood had lied and then changed his account to police, after initially claiming to officers “I don’t know if my phone’s been hacked”.
Silwood also told police, who went to his house three days after the post: “I didn’t say anything racist, I said he’s been playing rubbish football.”
The judge observed that when police first visited Silwood at home, it was he who had asked if it was about Sawyers and brought up the fact it was about a racist comment.
Judge Gosling said: “He could not have known, when police first spoke to him at his house, he was alleged to have put up a racist post.
“At that time, he would have recalled the post as a message referring to player as a buffoon.”
He added: “We simply did not believe he did not remember at that time exactly what he had so recently put on the site, three days before.”
The judge said: “Secondly, the appellant – when first challenged at his house about a comment on the fan zone about a player – said ‘that was not me’.
“That was a deliberate lie – he had posted a comment and he knew it.”
The judge said Silwood then “compounded the lie” by suggesting his phone may have been “hacked”, adding “he knew perfectly well what he put in that message”.
Silwood then told police in a later interview he “didn’t mean it like that… ‘I didn’t mean it racially’, but the judge said that was “an acknowledgment by him that at that stage he’d typed in word baboon, knowingly”.
Judge Gosling said Silwood’s remark also had to be read “in context”, as it was preceded by an “extremely offensive corruption” of the saying, Black Lives Matter.
“The appellant’s remark was tagged on to the previous comment in a continuation of the racist theme,” the judge said..
The judge also said that in the “mechanics of typing the message”, Silwood had “critically” added the word “d’Or” after the racial slur.
“His (phone) screen would then be displaying the word, ‘Baboon’ – whether by his own deliberate act or intervention of the auto-correct function,” he added.
“But it follows the word was apparent to him before he pressed send.”
Silwood, of Randall Close, Kingswinford, West Midlands, was also ordered to pay appeal costs of £520 and £500 compensation to Sawyers.
In a statement issued after Silwood was first sentenced, Sawyers, now on loan at Stoke City, encouraged fellow players to report all racial abuse to police.