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Gillingham FC fan in court after making racist gestures after Omar Bogle scored for Newport County

A football fan with learning difficulties who made monkey gestures to a player at a Gillingham match has been ordered to pay him £200 compensation.

Ben Burchell, who has autism and dyspraxia, was arrested at Priestfield Stadium on Saturday, October 28, after Omar Bogle scored for Newport County from the penalty spot during the club’s League Two match.

Ben Burchell was arrested at Priestfields
Ben Burchell was arrested at Priestfields

Not only did he make his way to the side of the pitch to carry out the racist gesture, he also shouted w****** at the opposition players as they were all celebrating with their team-mate after his goal.

Medway Magistrates Court heard the 28-year-old, who lives in Gillingham with his mum and step-dad, usually attends football matches with a carer or adult over the age of 18 but was at the League Two match on his own when the incident happened.

He was charged with racially aggravated intentional harassment and admitted the offence when he appeared in the dock.

Richard Lamb, prosecuting, said: “After the player scored he ran down the side of the stand to the pitch and put his arms out and his hands up to his armpits and then shouted they were w******

“He was arrested shortly after and made full admissions to officers.”

The incident happened at Priestfield Stadium in Gillingham. Picture: Megan Carr
The incident happened at Priestfield Stadium in Gillingham. Picture: Megan Carr

District Judge William Nelson also heard that Burchell’s emotions had got the better of him after the other side scored and the CPS was applying for a football banning order.

Wayne Crowhust, defending, said: “My client suffers with autism and dyspraxia and usually attends matches with a carer or an adult over the age of 18.

“He was on his own and his emotions got the better of him, he doesn’t even know why he did it it was stupid and he accepts it was a stupid thing to do.”

The court also heard Burchell, of College Avenue, Gillingham, who received a lifetime ban from Gillingham FC soon after the incident happened, had never come to the attention of the police before, only talks to his family and has no friends because of his mental capacity.

Judge Nelson also heard Burchell was extremely remorseful about what he had done.

Ben Burchell appeared at Medway Magistrates' Court
Ben Burchell appeared at Medway Magistrates' Court

Judge Nelson said: “Racism of this kind at a professional football match could be seen by families as well as the victim and that is very sad.

“Cases like this demonstrate there is much for the game still to do to make sure language and behaviour like this is eradicated. It’s never acceptable.”

The judge then told Burchell he had no option but to place him on a 12-month community order which will see him carry out 40 hours of unpaid work and attend five rehabilitation sessions with probation to help him with some of his issues.

Part of the order also included a prohibited activity requirement that bans him from attending any live professional football match for 12 months unless he is accompanied by an adult aged over 18.

Judge Nelson told Burchell: “You must not attend any games on your own, breach these requirements and you could be re-sentenced.”

He also ordered he pay Omar Bogle £200 compensation for the distress he caused him.

The judge also told the court he wasn’t issuing a football banning order as he didn’t feel it was necessary as the orders were designed to reduce violence and disorder at matches and Burchell had acted alone and on the spur of the moment.

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