Fan who claimed autocorrect changed ‘buffoon’ to ‘baboon’ in jibe about black footballer jailed after mistake ruled ‘impossible’
A British football fan who racially abused a player from his own team has been jailed for eight weeks after suggesting that the black star should win the ‘Baboon d’Or’ in reference to the sport’s highest individual accolade.
Simon Silwood, aged 50, claimed in his defense that predictive text on his mobile phone changed the word ‘buffoon’ to ‘baboon’ at the time he made the comment regarding West Bromich Albion midfielder Romaine Sawyers.
Silwood made the racist remark while referencing the Ballon d’Or accolade awarded by France Football, which is currently held by former FC Barcelona icon Lionel Messi, after his club nicknamed the Baggies received a 5-0 thumping from eventual Premier League champions Manchester City on January 26 of this year.
He later admitted to being made upset by the scoreline, but blamed the error on predictive text while using Facebook and denied that he was racist.
West Bromwich Albion fan Simon Silwood, aged 50 was today jailed for eight weeks for racially abusing midfielder Romaine Sawyers online.
Silwood was ordered to pay £500 compensation to Sawyers and £500 costs.
[ @SteveMadeley78 – The Athletic] #WBA pic.twitter.com/NpuvsQzsKi
— The Baggies Podcast (@TheBaggiesPod) September 30, 2021
Eventually convicting Silwood of sending an offensive message under the Communications Act earlier in September, police proved that the mistake simply wasn’t possible.
On Thursday, Silwood was jailed for eight weeks and ordered to pay out £500 ($673) in compensation to the Championship player, plus the same amount for his costs when he was sentenced at Birmingham Magistrates Court.
There, Distrcit Judge Briony Clarke told him that he had shown little remorse and that there was “no place for racism online”.
It was previously reported that PC Stuart Ward – the UK’s first officer dedicated to hate crimes – led the investigation that resulted in Silwood’s arrest.
West Bromwich Albion forwarded his message to West Midlands Police, which caused Silwood to be traced and arrested the very same day while later banned from WBA matches for life.
After the case reached its conclusion, PC Ward remarked that: “abusing anyone for the colour of their skin is disgusting and can never, ever be condoned.”
The 8-week prison sentence handed to Simon Silwood, who was found guilty of racially abusing Romaine Sawyers on Facebook, is believed to be the first time in England + Wales that a person has been given an immediate custodial sentence for the online racial abuse of a footballer
— Laura Scott (@LauraScott__) September 30, 2021
“There’s no place for racism in football or society in general. Silwood is old enough to know such appalling behaviour is not only wrong, but is absolutely deplorable,” Ward added.
“Sadly we’ve seen a rise in online hate crime over the last 12 months and we won’t hesitate to take action against those responsible, as this case shows.”
“As part of my role I’m working with partners to change this unacceptable culture of abuse and this includes education around discrimination.
“I know from personal experience how being a victim of racism hurts while offenders risk their own aspirations through getting a criminal record.
“I would like to thank Romaine and West Bromwich Albion for their assistance during this investigation,” Ward finished.
Yet Silwood’s woes might not be over as Mark Johnson of the Crime Prosecution service revealed that an appeal will be made for him to receive more jail time.
“In the 21st Century, it should be incomprehensible how a so-called football fan can abuse a player based on race, let alone a player on the team he purports to support,” Johnson said.
“Silwood deliberately chose a word known to have clear racist connotations to abuse a footballer due to the color of his skin.
“Such behavior will not be tolerated in football and will be prosecuted by the CPS. As this is a hate crime, we will apply for a harsher sentence to reflect that.”
A statement from Romaine Sawyers.
— West Bromwich Albion (@WBA) September 30, 2021
Later, Sawyer released his own statement through WBA where he welcomed the sentencing and wanted to focus on putting the row behind him.
“Racial abuse towards anyone, in any circumstance, is totally unacceptable, and I hope this case will serve as a deterrent to others,” Sawyer started.
“This is an incident that has affected me deeply, but I would like to encourage fellow players to report all racial abuse to the police. We must together stand strong in order to rid the game, and wider society, of this hideous behavior.
“It is widely accepted that social media companies must do more to stop the publication of racism on their platforms. I again urge them to take the necessary action required to prevent anyone from receiving the abuse I experienced.”
As well as thanking PC Stuard Ward and his club, “for their tireless support and professionalism during what has been a difficult eight months for me personally,” Sawyer also applauded “the Baggies fan who bravely came forward to report what they had seen”.
“It is important we all remain vigilant in the fight against racism, so please, if you are aware of racism, it is essential you report it,” he stressed.
“It is important to me to turn this negative experience into something positive and I will, therefore, donate the £500 awarded to me as compensation to a local West Midlands charity.”