Facebook Bigot Jailed for Eight Months

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Stephen Birrell of Glasgow is sent to prison for sectarian abuse aimed at Catholics and Celtic fans on Facebook.

A man who posted sectarian abuse about Celtic fans and Catholics on Facebook has been jailed for eight months. Stephen Birell, who had only recently been released early from a 12-month jail sentence, admitted posting the offensive comments on a Facebook page about the Celtic manager entitled “Neil Lennon should be banned.”

Birrell, of Glasgow, admitted posting the abuse between 28 February and 8 March, which was uncovered by a special team of officers investigating hate comments following a heated Old Firm encounter between Glasgow rivals Celtic and Rangers on 2 March.

A day before the match, Birrell wrote “Hope they all die. Simple. Catholic scumbags ha ha” and followed this up with a comment the day after the game, declaring “Proud to hate Fenian tattle farmers. Simple ha ha.” His final comment came on 8 March when he wrote “They’re all ploughing fields, the dirty scumbags.”

“No place in our modern society”

Sherriff Bill Totten said when sentencing, “I am satisfied that the nature of this offence, and in particular your previous record, means that I require to impose a prison sentence on you.” He continued, “I do want to make it clear today that in selecting a prison sentence I also have in mind that the cout should be sending out a clear message to deter others you may have tempted in this way.”

In addition to condemning sectarian abuse, Sherriff Totten also addressed the use of the internet in this case, stating “The use of modern communications to spread or support abuse or target groups of people because of their ethnic or racial background has no place in our modern society and has no place in genuine support for any football club.”

Similar sentiments were expressed by Lesley Thomson QC, The Solicitor General, who added that the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service would confront the problem of sectarianism “whether the offences are at the football match itself, travelling to or from it, or as in this case online threatening communications” as such behaviour is “completely unacceptable in modern Scotland.”

Earlier this year, two men who attempted to organise looting on Facebook during the UK riots in August were each jailed for four years. Perry Sutcliffe-Keenan and Jordan Blackshaw attempted to incite rioting in Warrington and Northwich respectively, but instead of inspiring like-minded individuals, they were greeted by police who took them into custody.

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