Emma Glanfield, Daily Mail (London), May 1, 2014
Two female football fans ripped up pages from the Koran during a match before throwing them in the air ‘like confetti’ while chanting racist songs about Muslims, a court heard.
Middlesbrough FC supporters Julie Phillips, 50, and Gemma Parkin, 18, have been found guilty of using religiously aggravated threatening or insulting behaviour while watching their team’s away fixture against Birmingham City on December 7 last year.
Magistrates heard that 25 minutes into the second half, Philips pulled a copy of the Muslim holy book from her handbag and started ripping out the pages.
She then handed them out to other fans sitting in the stands at St Andrew’s stadium who began throwing the torn pages into the air.
Philips and Parkin also joined in with anti-Islamic chants about killing Muslims with a bayonet while others pretended to set the book on fire, the court heard.
The pair were convicted at Birmingham Magistrates’ Court today following a one-day trial.
During the trial, prosecutor Amar Sanghara told the court: ‘On that date Birmingham City Football Club were playing home against Middlesbrough.
‘There was a crowd of 13,454 and 655 were Middlesbrough fans who were standing in the stand behind the goal.
‘A club steward Matthew Corne was stood in the Gill Merrick stand. While there he observed fans ripping pages from a book.
‘They were also chanting words like “Muslim”, “Koran” and “bayonet”.
‘Mr Cornes asked them what they were doing and asked the control to get the CCTV cameras to monitor them.
‘The group were followed from the ground and then intercepted by the police.
‘Mrs Phillips was interviewed on January 17 by police when she admitted tearing up the Koran but said she had been handed the book and didn’t know what it was.’
The court heard the pair were among a group of around 20 fans who were chanting racist songs during the Championship league match, which went on to finish 2-2.
Giving evidence Matthew Cornes, who was part of the security response team at the game, said:
‘They were passing pages of the book around and tore the book up.
‘They were throwing them up in the air like confetti.
‘There was shouting going on and singing, I don’t know the words but it was about the Koran and they mentioned Muslims as well.
‘I had never heard chanting like that before.’
John Newbold was working as a steward in the away end on the day and also witnessed pages being ripped from the book.
He was on duty in the Gil Merrick stand at the time of the offence and told Birmingham Magistrates’
Court: ‘I was at the back of the stand, when I saw, about four rows in front of me, somebody ripping something up.
‘I went down and asked “what are you ripping up?”. The reply was “the Koran”.
“My mate was behind me so I asked him to radio it through to control to keep an eye on it and keep the cameras on them.
‘We followed them at the end of the game to the away car park where the police stopped them and had a word with them.’
Sentencing chair of the bench Gordon Sayers said: ‘Mrs Phillips we have seen clear CCTV evidence you ripped up the Koran and passed pages around the small group around you.
‘You waved pages and tore them up.
‘We are satisfied you were aware of what you were distributing.
‘We have seen you and Mr Newbold’s heads move enough for him to ask you and you to shout the Koran.
‘Other supporters seemed uncomfortable and this behaviour was in a large stadium with people of all nationalities.
‘We find your behaviour both abusive and insulting.
‘Miss Parkin we find your version of how you got the Koran unbelievable.
‘You ripped up the Koran and were well aware of what you were doing.’
Phillips was fined £300, told to pay court costs of £400 and a victim surcharge of £30, while Parkin was fined £200, and ordered to pay a further £420 in court costs.
Neither were banned from attending future football matches.
Earlier today, Phillips told the court she did not know what the book was at the time of the incident.
She said: ‘I can remember just being passed a book, I didn’t know what it was.
‘I tore it up like confetti as that is what people do at a football match.
‘As we left a policeman then came over and I was mortified when I heard it was the Koran. If I had known I would not have torn it.
‘I am old enough to know not to do something like that.
‘I certainly wouldn’t have done it because a lot of Muslims live in Birmingham.
‘There were no racist songs to my knowledge at all.’