An Irish teenager who admitted sending racist abuse to former England and Arsenal footballer Ian Wright has not been given a criminal conviction.
Patrick O’Brien, 18, sent 20 messages on Instagram after losing a Fifa video game on PlayStation in May 2019.
O’Brien, who blamed the defeat on picking Wright as one of his players, was given probation at a sentencing hearing on Wednesday.
In a victim impact statement, Wright said he forgave O’Brien.
Judge David Waters told Tralee District Court he “didn’t see anything to be gained” by imposing a criminal conviction.
He noted O’Brien, of Sycamore Court, Ashleigh Downs in Tralee, had shown genuine remorse for his actions, and had donated 500 euro (£440) to the Irish Network Against Racism.
O’Brien admitted harassing Wright and sending a message by phone that was grossly offensive, obscene and menacing.
The court heard O’Brien had written an apology to Wright, which was accepted by the 57-year-old former striker.
Judge Waters said the question was whether the slurs against Wright were motivated by genuinely held views or were the “mindless comments of a naive young man”.
He criticised the “reprehensible views and language” O’Brien had put on social media, but said it appeared he had shown “genuine remorse,” made frank admissions of his guilt and received a “very positive” probation report.
His solicitor, Patrick 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.
Judge Waters said he was minded to send O’Brien on a course to help him understand the gravity of his actions, but added that the teenager had already done this “off his own back”.
The judge said that Wright “generously forgave” O’Brien and the accused had reason to be thankful for that.
In May 2020, Wright posted a series of screengrabs on social media of the offensive messages he received from O’Brien.
“I know I’m not meant to look at them but these messages still hit me so hard,” he said at the time.
“This kid has a direct line into me and is able to send this without any worry.”
On Sunday, Wright reacted to the news that Manchester United’s Marcus Rashford and other players had been racially abused on social media.
“It seems to be a fad now – a black player plays poorly or they think they’ve played poorly, and they come with all the emojis, or whatever it is,” he told Match of the Day.
“There are ways of being able to catch people. I don’t think they [social media companies] are vigilant enough, nowhere near. How much do they really care deep down?”