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Teens given slap on wrist for homophobic Twitter rant at Albion fans
Sussex Police has been criticised after three teenagers were let off with a lecture for sending homophobic messages about Albion fans on Twitter.
Seagulls supporters complained to officers after the three Crystal Palace fans sent a stream of “vile and explicit” tweets earlier this month.
The three boys, aged 15 and 16 from London, were identified by Sussex Police football liaison officer PC Darren Balkham, who said he would be visiting the boys’ parents rather than arresting the teenagers.
In March Chief Supt Graham Bartlett and Brighton and Hove City Council announced a “zero tolerance” policy on homophobic abuse in Brighton and Hove.
Chris Cooke, chairman of the city’s LGBT Community Safety Forum, described the decision not to arrest the boys as “a weak response”.
He said: “We are supposed to be zero tolerance in this city but the police are clearly taking a softly-softly approach.
“If these had been racist messages then there would have been arrests rather than a slap on the wrist.
“We have got to be tough and we have got to send a clear message that homophobic behaviour is clearly unacceptable.”
In November 2011 two Southampton fans were arrested after allegedly singing offensive anti-gay chants during an Albion match and in July a 17-year-old was arrested for sending offensive messages to Olympic diver Tom Daley.
PC Darren Balkham said the decision to visit the boys’ parents rather than make arrests in this case was “the best way forward”.
He said: “We had one victim who was especially distressed by what was said and she said community resolution was the way to deal with this.
“The victim was a lady who had been bullied as a child. She was very upset by the homophobic tweets.
“Arresting them would leave them with a possible criminal record and maybe ruin their lives, all for the sake of complete ignorance and stupidity.
“I would have done exactly the same thing if it was a racist tweet.
“I’d be ashamed if I was a parent and police came round my house because my lad had been abusing people.”
Were you one of the fans targeted by the homophobic abuse? Call the newsdesk on 01273 544 531.