“Monkey gestures” at football match given fine and football banning order

“Monkey gestures” at football match given fine and football banning order

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Ernest Goult: Image from BBC

Ernest Goult, aged 72, was convicted of public order offences on 29 July 2015, and received a fine and a football banning order.

What happened?

Goult was a spectator in the away supporters stand at a football match between Blackburn Rovers and Middlesbrough in November 2014. When Lee Williamson, Blackburn’s captain, scored an equaliser in the 94th minute, he made his way towards the Rover’s fans. En route, he saw Goult making “monkey gestures”, described as “under arm gestures” four of five times. Another player said that he saw Goult make the gesture about 10 times.

Goult pleaded not guilty and said that the gesture was an “old Teesside gesture”, which meant ‘you’re under the arm of the pit’.”. He denied it meant to convey any racial hatred and commented that “the fact the three chaps happened to be black, it didn’t register. The whole lot could have come over.”

News reports are lacking in detail and so we dont know the exact offences he was charged with, however, based on this BBC report it would appear that one offence is the “simple” offence of “Harassment, alarm or distress” under s.4 of the Public Order Act 1986, and the other is the racially aggravated form of the s.4 offence, under s.31 of the Crime and Disorder Act 1998.

Both offences carry custodial sentences, the former having a six month maximum, the latter having a two year maximum. Both offences also carry a liability for a fine: level 3 for s.4, level 4 for s.31. (Note that although the limits for fines in the Magistrates’ Court were amended in 2015, as this offence occurred before that change, the new levels wouldn’t apply in any event.)

Goult was convicted by a district judge.

Sentence

He was fined £600, with an order to pay £600 costs and a 3-year football banning order.

Under the Magistrates’ Courts Sentencing Guidelines (see p.87), the offence would appear to fall into the least serious of the three categories: “Threats, abuse or insults made more than once but on same occasion against the same person e.g. while following down the street”, carrying a starting point of a Band C fine.

The fine bands are explained at the rear of the guidelines, but in essence work on a percentage of an offender’s weekly income. Band C has a starting point of 150% of the weekly income.

We dont know Goult’s financial situation but would appear to be safe to assume that the fine is around the Band C starting point of 150%.

As for the banning order, it requires Goult to report at a police station at certain times and prohibits him from entering any premises for the purpose of attending “regulated” football matches in the UK. The s.5 offence is on the schedule of offences which triggers a liability for a banning order. The court must make an order where it considers that there are reasonable grounds to believe that the imposition of such an order would help prevent violence or disorder at or in connection with such football matches.

Where a non-custodial sentence is imposed, the minimum period is 3 years.

Appeal

An appeal against sentence would appear to be unlikely to be successful, though Goult may wish to try to have the football banning order quashed, if he cannot bear to be without his beloved Boro for three years. The only way it would appear this would be successful would be if it can be shown tha the judge was incorrect in concluding that the test (the order would help prevent disorder etc.) was satsified. This seems highly unlikely.

As for the fine (depending on Goult’s financial circumstances) it would seem the appropriate penalty.

As for challenging the conviction, an appeal against conviction would appear to be unlikely (we have a fact sheet on appeals from the Magistrates’ Court). He put forward his defence and was disbelieved, and there’s no reason to think that a Crown Court Judge would take a different view.

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