Jail for man who racially abused ex-football star
Published 16/04/2014 | 02:30
AN Irishman has been sentenced to 20 weeks in prison for racially abusing ex-Manchester United striker Andy Cole.
Lee Byrne (28) was drunk when he called Mr Cole "Mr black man" and a "spook" while on an Aer Lingus flight from Dublin to the UK, leaving the former England forward "extremely humiliated", Minshull Street Crown Court in Manchester heard.
Byrne – of Corduff Court, Blanchardstown, Dublin – was also handed a 20-week sentence for being drunk on a plane, which will run concurrently. He had pleaded guilty to both charges. Byrne's travel companion, Gregory Horan (26), of Sycamore View, Castleknock, Dublin, will serve 10 weeks in prison for being drunk on a plane, which he admitted to, but was not accused of abusing Mr Cole.
Speaking afterwards, the footballer said he was very happy with the verdict.
"I'm very happy with the verdict, however this behaviour cannot be tolerated and needs to be stamped out," he said.
"This verdict sends a message to others that this type of behaviour is not acceptable. We need to set a precedent for the up and coming youth of today in order for positive progress."
Both Byrne and Horan were travelling to a stag party on a 9.30am flight to the UK when cabin crew noticed the two had brought alcohol on board.
Staff confiscated a two-thirds-full bottle of rum from them, but not before the men had "downed their drinks".
The two men kicked the seats in front of them, and flight crew claimed every second word they said was a swear word. When the women in front of them moved, Byrne shifted his attention to the former United star.
After Mr Cole did not react to the men, Byrne repeatedly called him "Mr black man".
This was "upsetting and insulting" to Mr Cole, said Rachel Faux, for the prosecution, at Minshull Street Crown Court, adding that Byrne thought it was "politically correct" to call him that.
Byrne also called the former England striker a "spook", leading Mr Cole to get "very angry and upset".
Mr Cole told Byrne to "leave it", at which point the Irishman said he meant "spook" as in MI5 and MI6 spies.
Mr Cole was not at the sentencing, but said in a statement that he was "extremely humiliated and alarmed by the racial harassment and the harassment of other passengers".