A football supporter who repeatedly shouted homophobic abuse and made gestures mocking people with disabilities during a Premier League match has been fined £340.
Jamie Arnold was also ordered to pay a £34 victim surcharge and £500 in prosecution costs after being found guilty of disorderly behaviour likely to cause harassment, alarm or distress during Wolves’ home game with Manchester United on May 23 this year.
At the start of a trial at Walsall Magistrates’ Court on Monday, prosecutor Simon Brownsey said social distancing was still in place at the fixture, after the partial lifting of Covid restrictions.
Two witnesses who were sitting near Arnold told the court he shouted homophobic abuse at the match referee, Mike Dean and also at players, before making gestures obviously “mimicking disability”.
The district judge trying the case was told that the 31-year-old was arrested shortly before half-time after stewards were alerted.
Arnold, of The Glebe, Norton Bridge, near Stone, Staffordshire denied a single count brought under the 1986 Public Order Act.
He told the court he had not used any homophobic language, but had used a variety of swear words to abuse the referee and players.
He also denied mimicking disabled people, saying his actions – caught on CCTV – were an attempt to mock a player who had gone to the ground “rather easily” during the match.
Finding Arnold guilty, the district judge, Stephen Flint, said he could not be sure whom each element of the offending was aimed at.
But the judge noted that the homophobic abuse had occurred when children were nearby and could have been the “trigger for violence”.
District Judge Flint told Arnold: “This is an offence that, although very serious, has very limited sentencing options for me.
“The maximum sentence that can be imposed by the court is a £1,000 fine.”
The judge also praised the two witnesses who gave evidence, who he said had shown “considerable bottle and done their public duty to call this out”.
Arnold was instructed to pay the fine and costs at a rate of £50 per month and was also handed a three-year football banning order.
Commenting on the case, Pc Stuart Ward, the first dedicated hate crime officer within a UK football unit, said: “There is absolutely no justification for such vulgar actions.
“This was the first Wolves match with fans at Molineux following the pandemic and should have been a day of enjoyment. Instead, other supporters had to listen to and see vile behaviour.
“However, due to the support of Wolves and their supporters we were able to secure this conviction and a football banning order.
“My role is to investigate any report of hate crime and that includes discrimination relating to sexual orientation and disability. We won’t tolerate any type of hate crime, and will always fully investigate and pursue punishment against offenders.”