A biology student who mocked footballer Fabrice Muamba on Twitter after he collapsed during a match has been jailed for 56 days for inciting racial hatred. Liam Stacey pleaded guilty to the charge of racially-aggravated harassment and disorder at Swansea magistrates last week.
The Swansea University student, who is originally from Pontypridd, posted the comments on Twitter shortly after Mr Muamba collapsed during an FA cup tie against Tottenham Hotspur earlier this month. He was arrested shortly after the comments were made.
Swansea Magistrates Court was told that the 21-year-old wanted to be a forensic scientist.
District Judge John Charles told Stacey that his actions would do untold harm to his career. He said that "It was racist abuse via a social networking site instigated as a result of a vile and abhorrent comment about a young footballer who was fighting for his life."
– District Judge John Charles
At the moment not just the footballer's family, not just the footballing world but the whole world were literally praying for his life. Your comments aggravated this situation. I have no choice but to impost an immediate custodial sentence to reflect the public outrage at what you have done.
The judge told Stacey that it was clear he instantly regretted the offences he had committed while he was drunk, but that he must learn how to handle his alcohol better.
When interviewed by police, Stacey said he had been drinking since lunchtime while watching Wales play France in the Six Nations. He later tried to delete his page, but police arrested him the next morning at his student home in Swansea. Magistrates heard Stacey tried to "distance himself" from the comments by saying his account had been hacked.
In mitigation his defence said he will feel the consequences of his drunken comments for years. The Swansea University student cried as his actions were read out in court and when he was told he will face time in prison. He'll serve half his sentence in jail. The court also heard that third year student now faces being expelled from University.
– Gareth Jones, Liam Stacey's solicitor
He is no longer welcome at the institution because he has damages their reputation and there are fears of reprisals. He does not bear him any grudge and he is glad he is making a good recovery. My clients simply lost his head and posted these disgusting comments to both the bitter shame of himself and his parents. For a moment of madness his career has now gone as a result of his behaviour.
The Bolton midfielder was left fighting for his life after suffering a heart attack during an FA Cup tie on March 17. Horrified fans watched live on TV as he fell to the ground during the quarter-final clash at Tottenham Hotspurs.
Police were inundated with complaints as members of the public reported the student's comments. Stacey, a Swansea University biology undergraduate, was quickly tracked down and arrested. Last week he admitted inciting racial hatred when he appeared briefly at Swansea Magistrates' Court.
Stacey was close to tears during his appearance before magistrates last week. He was released on conditional bail but warned that all options would be considered when he was sentenced. Muamba's recovery since suffering a cardiac arrest 10 days ago has been described as "miraculous". He remains in intensive care in hospital where his condition is described as serious but stable.
Bolton players have this morning visited Fabrice Muamba ahead of their re-arranged FA Cup quarter final against Tottenham at White Hart Lane tonight. The tie was abandoned after Fabrice Muamba collapsed.
Rob Osborne was at Swansea Magistrates Court this morning and has sent this report.