Football fan from Shrewsbury fined £235 for ripping pages of the Koran

A football fan from Shrewsbury who ripped up pages torn from a copy of the Koran by another supporter has admitted a charge of threatening behaviour.

Mark Stephenson
Mark Stephenson

Middlesbrough season ticket holder Mark Stephenson was fined £235 by magistrates, who heard that the 25-year-old was "shocked and appalled" at his own actions.

Stephenson, of Napoleon Drive, Bicton Heath, committed the religiously-aggravated public order offence last December during Middlesbrough's Sky Bet Championship fixture at Birmingham City.

The £22,000-a-year purchasing manager was among a group of around 20 visiting supporters who were handed pages of the Koran by a woman who took the Islamic holy book out of her handbag during the match.

Prosecutor Jonathan Purser told Birmingham Magistrates' Court that Stephenson, who has no previous convictions or cautions, was seen with a lighter, apparently pretending to set fire to some of the pages.

The "through and through" fan, who was ordered to pay £105 in costs and a £23 victim surcharge, also told a steward who asked what the book was: "It's the Muslim bible, we hate Muslims."

Other fans were shouting and chanting at the time of the offence, and the words "Koran, Muslims and burning" were overheard by a steward.

Defence solicitor Ash Mistry told magistrates that his client, who also follows England abroad, had been drinking alcohol before the match and at half-time, and had very little recollection of his "inflammatory" actions.

The lawyer told the court: "He is in no way racist and he holds no racist views towards Muslims."

Stephenson was deeply remorseful for what was an isolated incident, Mr Mistry submitted.

Magistrates opted not to impose a football banning order on Stephenson.

Passing sentence, chairman of the bench Ronald Healy said: "The incidents that we have had described to us are extremely unsavoury and extremely regrettable.

"We have looked at the references that have been provided by friends and your employer, and they do appear to confirm that you are generally of very good character, and that this incident is particularly out of your normal character."

But Mr Healy added: "It's lucky in some respects that nothing occurred as a result of your actions.

"Incidents of this kind are considered extremely offensive to some members of the community. We hope that in the future you will not ever, ever participate in any such incident."

Stephenson, who attended court in the company of his parents, appeared to be on the verge of tears as he left the building without comment.

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