Joshua Cryer initially claimed his Twitter account had been hacked but was spared jail after pleading guilty to offence
A law student who bombarded the football commentator Stan Collymore with racist tweets has been sentenced to two years' community service and ordered to pay ?150 legal costs.
Joshua Cryer had initially claimed that his Twitter account had been hacked, but was spared jail after pleading guilty to the offence.
The 21-year-old admitted sending grossly offensive messages in breach of section 127 of the Communications Act, hoping to "snare a celebrity" on Twitter, where response tweets from well-known people are highly valued.
Cryer told police on Tyneside, where he is studying at Newcastle University, that he hoped to get a reaction from the former England striker, who has campaigned against racism in football and society more widely for many years.
He did in the end ? but only after his conviction earlier this month, when Collymore tweeted: 'J Cryer pleaded guilty yesterday and will be sentenced on 21 March at Newcastle magistrates court.'
Veronica Jordan, prosecuting, said Cryer ? a keen footballer and the captain of a Newcastle University team ? had given in to "showing off and boasting to friends that he had found a new hobby".
She rejected the idea that he had acted stupidly on the spur of the moment, telling the court: "It was not impulsive. He has done this up to seven times over a period of days. That does not smack of impulsive behaviour. He was intending to insult and abuse."
Passing sentence, District Judge Stephen Earl told Cryer he had been "foolish, immature and pathetic". He said: "You know that this conviction will have a dramatic effect on your job and career prospects, but you put yourself here and you have to man up to that reality.
"I don't doubt you are not an inherently racist person, but you did act in an intentionally racist way. You intended to get a rise out of Mr Collymore. He has made a justifiable and reasoned stance against you to the point where you shut down your Twitter account.
"I find it difficult to fathom what on Earth you thought you were doing. It was stupid, and you ought to have known better. You were a legend in your own head in this attention-seeking moment." He said a prison sentence would serve no useful purpose and ordered Cryer to carry out 240 hours of unpaid community work over the next two years.
Cryer's solicitor, Andrew O'Hanlon, said in mitigation that his client had many Asian friends and was "not somebody I would regard as being a dyed-in-the-wool racist. The reason he contacted Collymore in the first place was he is a fan of his."
Cryer, from Burnley, Lancashire, attended court with his father and sisters but did not comment during the hearing or afterwards. He was arrested in January after Collymore reported the abuse to Staffordshire police, who passed the details on to the Northumbria force.
Collymore, 41, made his name playing for Nottingham Forest, Liverpool and Aston Villa and now works for the TV company talkSport. He supports the Depression Alliance charity as well as anti-racism campaigns.