Ian Wright says he is disappointed that the Irish teenager who admitted racially abusing him on social media has escaped a criminal conviction.
Patrick O’Brien, of Tralee, County Kerry, abused the former Arsenal and England striker in private messages on Instagram last May after he lost a FIFA game on PlayStation.
The 18-year-old pleaded guilty to harassing Wright on May 11, contrary to the Non-Fatal Offences Against The Person Act 1997, and sending a message by phone that was grossly offensive, obscene and menacing.
At a sentencing hearing at Tralee District Court on Wednesday, Judge David Waters said he “didn’t see anything to be gained” by imposing a criminal conviction, and handed O’Brien probation.
Wright said: “I’ve seen today’s judgement and I’m disappointed.
“This case was never about revenge, it was always about consequences for acts of racism. My forgiveness of this young man was for my own deeply personal need and desire to move forward without further anguish. I am a 57-year-old man that has experienced racism throughout my life. I wasn’t expecting my forgiveness to be an invitation to lighten a sentence.
“Seeing this judgement, I can only wonder what deterrent there is for anyone who spouts this kind of vile racist abuse.
“An individual wished death upon me because of my skin colour. No judge’s claims of “naivety” or “immaturity” will ever be acceptable to us. The supposed immaturity and naivety of our attackers is never any comfort.
“So yeah I am disappointed. I’m tired. We are all tired.”
Judge Walters noted O’Brien had shown genuine remorse for his actions, and had donated 500 euros (£440) to the Irish Network Against Racism out of his own volition.
The judge said the language used by O’Brien was reprehensible but was the unthinking behaviour of “a naive young man”.
He added that O’Brien had written an apology to Wright, which was accepted by the former footballer who forgave his abuser.
Judge Waters said he had received a “very positive” probation report on O’Brien, which said he had co-operated in full, made full and frank admissions of his guilt, and had been in non-stop contact with his probation officer and was very co-operative.
His family are law-abiding, decent people, his solicitor Patrick Mann told the court.
Mann said O’Brien was a “very, very good boy” who was getting “great results” at school, adding that he was “still a young lad”, and asked that he be allowed to go forward “without any stain” on his record.
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