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Football ban for fan who racially abused Tottenham Hotspur forward

|News, Hate crime

A man who made racist gestures at Son Heung-min during a Premier League match has been banned from football for three years.

Robert Garland, 44, of Croydon, made the racial gesture after the Tottenham Hotspur forward was substituted in the 89th minute against Crystal Palace at Selhurst Park on 6 May, 2023.

The South Korean player had left the pitch closest to the home fans and saw Garland point at him, shout and gesture at him. Mr Son told the police that he did “nothing to be targeted with this horrible racist and discriminatory behaviour”. The abuse was caught on camera and widely shared on social media.

Kevin Christie, CPS lead sports prosecutor for London North, said: “This case shows that hate crime at football will not be tolerated. Garland’s actions were rightly condemned on social media and we call on all fans to carry on calling out any form of discriminatory behaviour against players or fans to the police or stewards so we can take cases like this to court.”

Garland pleaded guilty to racially aggravated harassment at Highbury Magistrates’ Court on 25 August 2023. He was given a £1,384 fine and ordered to carry out 60 hours of unpaid work, as well as £85 costs.

On Monday, 6 November, prosecutors successfully appealed to add a Football Banning Order to Garland’s sentence. The ban means the 44-year-old will not be able to go to any regulated match for three years and will need to surrender his passport during international fixtures.

Douglas Mackay, Deputy Chief Crown Prosecutor and CPS lead sports prosecutor, said: “Racist or any other form of discriminatory behaviour has a massive impact on the game, the players and fans. 

“Not only will the CPS look to prosecute anyone making vile gestures or actions, we will ask courts to ban them from the sport they say they love.

“Anyone committing offences this season runs the risk of being banned from seeing their national team play in Euro 2024 as well as travelling abroad during that time, limiting summer holiday plans.”

Chief Constable Mark Roberts, NPCC Lead for Football Policing, said: “Any form of racist, discriminatory or hateful behaviour at football matches is completely unacceptable. Officers will always aim to take further action when a criminal offence has been committed, working closely with partners.
“Banning orders are one of the punishments fans can face, and last season we issued the highest number of banning orders in a single year since the 2010/11 season, working closely with the CPS. As well as not being able to attend matches in this country, these fans will also be unable to travel to Germany for the Euro 2024 Championships.

“We collectively need to make football a safe environment for the overwhelming majority of fans want to enjoy the game, and anyone who commits a criminal offence either outside or inside a football ground can expect to face the consequences of their actions. CPS should be applauded for their determination in pursuing a banner order in this case and ensuring that ultimately the court complied with the intent of the legislation and correctly imposed a three-year ban.”

The CPS, working closely with the Football Policing Unit, applied for 682 Football Banning Orders in 2022/23 football season, an increase of 32 per cent compared with the 2021/22 season.

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