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Stephen Birrell seems like a pretty unpleasant bloke. He has a conviction for attacking his girlfriend with a machete. Now he’s got another conviction, for posting sectarian remarks on a Facebook page. Birrell has been sentenced to eight months in jail.
The page in question is “Neil Lennon should be banned” — a kind of anti-tribute to the Celtic Football Club manager who inspires particular loathing among Glasgow Rangers fans.
If the reports are correct, then Birrell has not been sentenced because of threats against Lennon, of which there have been many serious examples this year. Rather it has been for admittedly crude comments about Fenians, “tattie farmers” and the rest, stuff that lies somewhere between football banter and genuine hate speech.
Birrell’s sentence, alarming as it is, comes even before legislation specifically outlawing football related “hate speech” comes into force.
Read Judith Townend on the contentious Offensive Behaviour at Football and Threatening Communications Bill here