Euro 2020 racist abuse – 11 people arrested

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Police have arrested 11 people as they continue a hate crimes investigation into social media messages sent after the Euro 2020 final.

The UK Football Policing Unit received 600 reports of racist comments sent to England’s black players after the defeat and judged 207 to be criminal.

Of these, 123 were posted by people overseas, while 34 came from the UK.

Police said people who think they can hide behind social media accounts “need to think again”.

A wave of racist social media abuse was aimed at Marcus Rashford, Jadon Sancho and Bukayo Saka after they missed penalties in the shoot-out at the Euro 2020 final last month.

It led to condemnations by the Football Association, England manager Gareth Southgate and the prime minister.

Chief Constable Mark Roberts, National Police Chiefs’ Council Football Policing lead, said the investigation was proceeding “at pace” and said a “vast amount of work” went into identifying the 11 people arrested so far.

The majority of the arrests were on suspicion of malicious communications or breaching section 127 of the Communications Act 2003 – which includes sending messages which are “grossly offensive”, convey a threat or are “menacing”.

Malicious communications offences carry a maximum penalty of two years in prison, while a breach of section 127 can lead to a sentence of six months in jail.

Three people were arrested on suspicion of inciting racial hatred, which can mean a sentence of up to seven years in prison in the most severe cases.

Details of the 123 foreign accounts are due to be passed on to their respective countries for local authorities to take action.

Police are awaiting information from social media companies about the owners of the remaining 50 accounts.

“There are people out there who believe they can hide behind a social media profile and get away with posting such abhorrent comments,” Mr Roberts said.

“They need to think again – we have investigators proactively seeking out abusive comments in connection to the match and, if they meet a criminal threshold, those posting them will be arrested.”

He said the complexities of investigating social media abuse “cannot be underestimated” and thanked Facebook, Instagram and Twitter for responding quickly to police inquiries.

Meanwhile Bukayo Saka, the 19-year-old Arsenal forward who took England’s final penalty, said he was “speechless” after his club presented him with a wall of supportive messages.

“How do I even say thank you for all of this?” he asked.

In one, a young fan invited Saka to play football with him in the park and promised to “let him win”.

Those arrested include three people from London, two from Christchurch, Dorset, one from Runcorn, Cheshire, one from Sale, Greater Manchester, one from Folkestone, Kent, one from Reading, one from Shrewsbury and one from Worcester.

(BBC, 05.08.2021)

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