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Guilty: Former Albion player convicted of making homophobic gesture at Amex crowd
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- Former Blackburn Rovers footballer Colin Kazim-Richards has been found guilty of making a homophobic gesture at a match against his former club Brighton and Hove Albion.
- Kazim-Richards has been fined £750 for the "insulting" gesture he made to the crowd at The Amex.
Outside court, PC Darren Balkham, football liaison officer for Sussex Police and Brighton and Hove Albion, said they hoped that today's conviction would show that homophobia was not acceptable on the terraces or in society.
He said: "The Brighton fans have been subjected to a lot of homophobic abuse over many years and this was somewhat of a test case involving a professional footballer."
PC Balkham said Kazim-Richard's actions stepped over the line of what was reasonable and acceptable banter at a football match and added that it was not acceptable to do something like that on the pitch.
He said: "This was the first case where a professional footballer has been convicted of making a homophobic gesture towards the crowd.
"I have been doing this job for 15 seasons and Brighton fans have been subjected during that time to pockets of homophobic abuse around the country.
"We are where racism was 20 years ago but I do not think it is going to take us 20 years to catch up with society as it is today.
"We deal with homophobic incidents day in, day out. On the football side of it, we have had to educate people.
"Colin Kazim-Richards played for Brighton. He knew what Brighton is about and he admitted that in court.
"People do things in the heat of the moment but when you are on show like a professional footballer is, you are always on show.
"When you do something like this, you have to take the consequences."
Pc Balkham said he had been in constant contact with the Football Association, which had told him it would not be taking any action until the court case concluded.
But he said it had little power to do anything now the footballer plays in Turkey.
A PA picture of Kazim-Richards, centre, leaving the court via a back entrance.
Now we have a guilty verdict, I have opened comments on the story. Please let us know your reaction below.
(For anyone wondering where the victim surcharge goes to, it won't be split equally between everyone who was at The Amex - it's used to fund victim services through the Government's Victim and Witness General Fund.)
Kazim-Richards has been fined £750 plus a £75 victim surcharge and £620 costs.
Costs are now being discussed. Mr Reiz, defending Kazim-Richards, said an appeal is likely.
Chair of the bench Darren Reynolds said witness accounts were "very clear" and they agreed they were "insulting".
We have a guilty verdict. More follows.
No news from court - Argus reporter Ben James says the magistrates have yet to come back.
Before the court reconvenes, some more from PA:
Kazim-Richards, who now plays for Turkish club Bursaspor, said he did not agree with discrimination in "any shape or form" and told the court he had been an ambassador for the Kick It Out Campaign.
He described himself as a "flamboyant" player who had interacted with the crowd to "acknowledge" and "accept" the banter but that he would never make a homophobic gesture.
Mr Reiz said that hand gestures were made during football matches all the time and that due to Brighton having a large gay community an innocent hand gesture made behind his back had been perceived as being homophobic.
He said that Kazim-Richards "promoted diversity" and that for him to put that to one side to make a homophobic gesture was "beyond belief".
The court also heard from three character witnesses who described Kazim-Richards as polite, approachable and respectful.
Court has now adjourned for lunch. They are due back at 2.15pm where the Magistrates are expected to give their verdict.
All evidence is finished and the Magistrates are now considering the verdict.
Stan Reiz, representing Kazim-Richards, said his client was "throroughly honourable" and promoted diversity.
He said: "That he would put that all to one side to make a disparaging gesture to supporters who once sang his name beggars belief."
He added prosecution witnesses had "jumped to conclusions" due to nature of some of the abuse Albion fans receive.
A report of the trial so far from PA, who have also been covering the case:
Former Blackburn Rovers footballer Colin Kazim-Richards mimicked pulling his shorts down, put his left arm behind his bottom and made a homophobic gesture towards the crowd while playing against one of his previous clubs, a court has heard.
The 27-year-old, who was known as the Coca Cola Kid after being bought by Brighton and Hove Albion with proceeds won in a competition run by the drinks company, was on loan to Blackburn when he was allegedly seen making the gesture during Blackburn's Championship match against Brighton and Hove Albion at the Amex Stadium on February 12 last year.
At one point he was seen by a witness backing into Brighton player Wayne Bridge and simulating a sex act which was deemed to be homophobic, Brighton and Hove Magistrates' Court was told.
Prosecutor Simon Allen told the court that Kazim-Richards, from Bishops Stortford, made the alleged gesture to Brighton and Hove Albion fans who were chanting "you fat b*****d" and "you're fat and you know you are" at him.
He said: "It seems that the player reacted to this and he mimicked pulling down his shorts and with his left hand behind his back mimicked that he had something in his hand and moved it back and forward."
Mr Allen said that each time he did this the chants from the crowd grew louder.
Christopher Cannon and his son Daryl, who were working as match day press stewards at the Amex, told the court they saw Kazim-Richards make the gesture more than once.
Both men told the court they found it offensive and perceived it to be homophobic.
Mr Cannon junior said: "I perceived it as a very wrong thing to do, particularly for someone who's involved with the Kick It Out Campaign.
"Racism and homophobia are on the same level."
Season-ticket-holder Darren Hastings, who sits in the lower west stand, said he noticed Kazim-Richards make the obscene gesture four or five times during the match.
He said it was his perception that the player was trying to get a reaction from the crowd, and that he was succeeding.
He said he was disappointed that neither the linesman or referee reacted to what was going on and said: "It was utterly disgusting.
"I understand that football players receive a number of gestures or comments from the crowd but I certainly did not expect to see a football player perform that gesture on the pitch."
Stan Reiz, defending Kazim-Richards, said that hand gestures were made during football matches all the time and that due to the Brighton having a large gay community an innocent hand gesture made behind his back had been perceived as being homophobic.
London-born Kazim-Richards, who now plays for Turkish club Bursaspor, is charged with one count of using threatening, abusive or insulting words or behaviour, or disorderly behaviour, within the sight or hearing of a person, likely to cause harassment, alarm or distress.
Asked if he was getting frustrated at the game, Kazim-Richards said: "I was having a good game and we were winning so don't know how it would bother me. "
Kazim-Richards is now in the witness box. He is telling the court he made a gesture, but that it was not homophobic.
He said one was the sign which denotes general masturbation, and one was the "talking mouth" sign.
He added it was banter, and he was just interacting with the crowd.
Next up on the stand is Albion fan Michael Beard (no relation to Argus editor Michael Beard).
He said he saw Kazim-Ricahrds make a homophobic gesture in the second half following abusive chants from home fans.
He added he was "saddened" by the player's reaction.
Mr Hastings said Kazim-Richards seemed to be getting frustrated with how the game was progressing. He added he couldn't recall any abuse from the fans to Kazim-Richards.
He added that Colin Kazim-Richards backed into Brighton player Warne Bridge and made another obscene gesture.
He said the player pretended to put something up his backside four or five times.
Darren Hastings, season ticket holder of five years, told the court he was "utterly disgusted" by an "obscene" gesture made by Colin Kazim-Richards.
Chris Cannon, Albion press steward, told the court he saw the former Albion player Kazim-Richards make the gesture twice towards the fans.
He said he perceived it to be a homophobic gesture aimed at the Albion fans.
Prosecutor Simon Allen claims Colin Kazim-Richards made a gesture after receiving abuse from home fans.
He said there were chants of "you fat bastard" and "you're fat and you know you are".
Colin Kazim-Richards pretended to pull his shorts down and made a gesture denoting masturbation towards his backside, Mr Allen said.
Former Blackburn Rovers footballer Colin Kazim-Richards is standing trial accused of making a homophobic gesture at a match against his former club Brighton and Hove Albion.
The 27-year-old allegedly made a gesture to the crowd during Blackburn's Championship match against Brighton and Hove Albion at the Amex Stadium on February 12 last year.
Kazim-Richards, who now plays for Turkish club Bursaspor, is charged with one count of using threatening, abusive or insulting words or behaviour, or disorderly behaviour, within the sight or hearing of a person, likely to cause harassment, alarm or distress.
The London-born footballer's trial was meant to take place at Brighton Magistrates' Court in January but was adjourned until Wednesday.
Argus reporter Ben James is in court.
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