Cheshire man sentenced for racist abuse of England players
A Cheshire man has been sentenced for posting racist abuse about England players on the night of the Euro finals in July.
The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) said that on Sunday, 11 July 2021, Scott McCluskey, 43, of Blyth Close in Runcorn, had been watching the game at his home with his partner and son.
At the end of the game he took to his Facebook account to post racist and insulting comments about England players, Marcus Rashford, Jadon Sancho and Bukayo Saka, who missed penalties in a shoot-out to decide the result.
This status was seen by those who are ‘Friends’ with the Defendant and was met with condemnation, with some referring to the status as ‘absolutely disgusting’, ‘blatant out and out racism’ and ‘disgraceful’. It was reported to the police.
McCluskey told officers that he hadn’t been drinking on the night but had smoked cannabis. He said he posted the comments to make people laugh. At the time he did not realise that the comments could be considered racist.
It was only the response to the post from other Facebook users that made him realise it was insulting and offensive. He said he deleted it shortly afterwards.
When officers showed him the post again, he admitted it could be considered offensive and could make people feel alarmed or distressed, but he hadn’t thought of this at the time.
At Warrington Magistrates’ Court on 8 September 2021, McCluskey pleaded guilty to a charge of Sending by a Public Communication Network an offensive message.
District Judge Nicholas Sanders sentenced him to 14 weeks’ imprisonment, suspended for 18 months. He must do 30 days of a rehabilitation activity and is subject to an electronically-monitored curfew on Saturdays from 9am to midnight and Sundays from 12 noon to midnight for 40 weeks. He must pay one of the victims £100 compensation, costs of £85 and a victim surcharge of £128.
The Crown Prosecution Service applied for the sentence to be uplifted because of the Hate Crime element and this was accepted by the court. The uplift made it punishable by custody.
The District Judge described this as a “foul offence which has far reaching consequences.”
Senior District Crown Prosecutor Jo Lazzari, of CPS Mersey Cheshire, said: “While millions of us watched the England team with pride as they reached the final of the Euro 2020 tournament, Scott McCluskey took to his Facebook account and posted vile racist comments about the players who had missed penalties.
“This status was seen by those who are ‘Friends’ with the Defendant and met with condemnation.
“One such person saw the status and was taken back to issues with racism she experienced as a child and felt angry, upset and disappointed at having seen such a message in her own home.
“We would sincerely like to thank the individual who brought this appalling hate crime to our attention and gave us the opportunity to work with Cheshire Police to bring this offence to Court.
“The Crown Prosecution Service submitted to the Court that this was the most serious category of this type of offending.
“This offending is described as ‘Hate Crime’ and the CPS treats these offences with the utmost gravity because they attack the very essence of the victim and affect the whole community.
“As shown by the public response to this Defendant’s actions, racism has no place in our society and will not be tolerated in any form.”
The CPS is currently working with the police, clubs, player bodies and organisations like the Premier League, the English Football League and the Football Association to explain what evidence we need to pass our threshold for charging. This will help clubs and the leagues protect their players by ensuring we get everything we need to build the strongest cases.
Deputy Chief Crown Prosecutor Elizabeth Jenkins, CPS national lead on football, said: “There is no room in the game, nor elsewhere, for racism. Where there is sufficient evidence and it is in the public interest we will prosecute such cases and seek an increased sentenced on conviction.
“Hate crimes such as these have a massive impact on players and their mental health. The CPS takes this kind of offending very seriously and this case shows that where offensive content is reported to the police we can successfully bring offenders to justice.”
Mark Roberts, Chief Constable of Cheshire Constabulary and the NPCC Lead for football policing, added: “McCluskey is the first person in the UK to be convicted in relation to the racist abuse posted after the Euro 2020 final and I hope that his conviction acts as warning to others. I’m pleased to see Cheshire leading the way in this regard and I know there are many others in the pipeline.
“The racial abuse aimed at our players following that game was totally abhorrent and quite rightly it shocked and appalled people across the country.
“Those in the England team were true role models throughout the tournament, conducting themselves with professionalism and dignity and they did not deserve such vile abuse.
“I want to make it clear to anyone using social media that you will be held accountable for what you post, you cannot simply hide behind a computer screen, or use pseudo names to conceal your identity.
“This prosecution is not the end, the UK Football Policing Unit will continue to work closely with social media platforms to trace those responsible for the utterly vile messages and ensure that they will all be held responsible.”
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