Leeds fan who racially abused West Ham’s Michail Antonio given ban and suspended jail term
Gary Hawkins was found guilty of abusing the forward during Leeds’ Premier League against West Ham in September of last year but had an eight-week jail sentence suspended. A Leeds United fan who racially abused West Ham star Michail Antonio has been banned from matches for four years and was sentenced to an eight-week prison sentence suspended.
Gary Hawkins, 52, shouted the abuse at the Jamaican striker from his seat in Elland Road’s East Stand during a Premier League game on September 25 last year. Antonio had scored a 90th-minute winner as David Moyes’ team came from behind to win 2-1. Hawkins also threatened a nearby Leeds United fan who challenged him over the comments. He denied a racially-aggravated public order offence for the abuse of Antonio and a public order offence for the threats to the fellow fan.
But he was found guilty of both offences following a trial at Leeds Magistrates Court on Thursday. Hawkins was given an eight-week prison sentence, suspended for 12 months, required to complete 100 hours of unpaid work and ordered to pay £775 costs. He was also given a Football Banning Order which stops him from attending matches for four years.
Hawkins had been arrested by officers from the Leeds District Suspect Management Unit and at that point was served with a Section 23 Notice under the Football Spectators Act 1989, which banned him from Elland Road until the end of the court process.
Following the guilty verdict superintendent Russ Hughes, the operations lead for South Yorkshire Police’s Leeds District, said: “Race hate crime such as this is truly abhorrent and can never be tolerated, whether at a football match or anywhere else in society.
“We will always take reports of hate crime seriously and do everything we can to support victims and take positive action against offenders.
“As we have seen with this incident, other fans will rightly take exception to this type of behaviour and are prepared to challenge it as completely unacceptable.
“We continue to work closely in partnership with the club and encourage anyone who encounters racist abuse or other hate crime to report it to us so we can take action and make sure those responsible face the consequences.”
Antonio, who has regularly spoken out against racism in football, has previously described Leeds fans as “the worst I’ve played in front of”. In an interview with the The Footballer’s Football Podcast earlier this year, he said: “I don’t mind hecklers but they are over the top for me.”
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