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Reading man sentenced for posting online racist abuse about England football players

|News, Hate crime

A Reading man has been sentenced after being found guilty of posting racist abuse about England players on social media on the night of the Euro finals last July.

Shortly after England’s defeat, Hugh Laidlaw, 50, posted an offensive image and comments targeted at the players who missed penalties in the shootout on the Metal Detecting UK Facebook page.

Offended and upset by Laidlaw’s post, members of the online site alerted the police. When questioned by officers, Laidlaw claimed that he had accidently shared what he thought at the time was a funny post after having a few drinks. He then tried to pretend that his account had been hacked to distance himself from the post.

Laidlaw was found guilty of sending by a public communication network an offensive message at Reading Magistrates’ Court today. He was given an eight-week custodial sentence suspended for 12 months.

Senior Crown Prosecutor Benjamin May of the Crown Prosecution Service said: “Hugh Laidlaw’s hateful and racist post was a direct attack on England’s players, and those who it was shared with were left disgusted and upset.

“Racist abuse won’t be tolerated and, as this case has shown, where offensive content is reported to the police and our legal tests are met, we can successfully bring offenders to justice.”

The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) works with the police, clubs, player bodies and organisations, like the Premier League, the English Football League and the Football Association to explain what evidence is required to charge, to help clubs and the leagues protect their players by ensuring prosecutors have all the evidence they need to build the strongest case possible.

CPS sports lead prosecutor Douglas Mackay said: “Over recent years and months, hate crimes relating to sporting events have been on the rise.

“At the CPS, we play a crucial role in tackling these crimes and making our national sport inclusive and safe to watch. There is no place for hate in football and hate crimes such as this have a significant impact on victims.”

Notes to editors

  • Hugh Laidlaw (DOB 21/9/1971) was found guilty of one count of sending by a public communication network an offensive message at Reading Magistrates’ Court on 15 August 2022.  He was given an eight-week custodial sentence suspended for 12 months. He was also ordered to pay a fine of £1,000, costs of £775 and a surcharge of £128.
  • Benjamin May is a senior crown prosecutor for CPS Thames and Chiltern and local hate crime lead.

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