Fabrice Muamba: Racist Twitter user jailed for 56 days

Liam Stacey (left) from Pontypridd admitted posting the comments, hours after the player collapsed during an FA Cup tie.

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A student who admitted posting racially offensive comments on Twitter about footballer Fabrice Muamba has been jailed for 56 days.

Swansea University student Liam Stacey, 21, from Pontypridd, admitted inciting racial hatred over remarks about the Bolton Wanderers player, who collapsed during a FA Cup tie at Tottenham.

A district judge in Swansea called the comments "vile and abhorrent".

Muamba, 23, who suffered a cardiac arrest, is still in intensive care.

Sentencing Stacey at Swansea Magistrates' Court, District Judge John Charles told him: "In my view, there is no alternative to an immediate prison sentence.

"It was not the football world who was praying for [Muamba].... everybody was praying for his life."

Stacey broke down in tears as he was led away to begin his jail term.

As he passed the public gallery, he was briefly embraced by friends and his parents.

A second year biology student at Swansea, Stacey was arrested after his comments on the social networking site were reported by other users.

A number of people challenged Stacey on Twitter following his first comment, and he responded with a number of offensive posts aimed at other Twitter users.

Fabrice Muamba Fabrice Muamba, 23, remains critically ill after collapsing during a match on 17 March

Last week the court heard how Stacey posted the offensive comments shortly after the former England Under-21 star collapsed during the FA Cup quarter-final at White Hart Lane on 17 March.

Magistrates were told police forces across Britain received complaints following the comments.

'Disciplinary'

Stacey tried to "distance himself" from the tweets by claiming his account had been hacked, the court was told.

He later tried to delete his page but was arrested the following day at his student house in Swansea.

When interviewed by police, Stacey said he had been drinking since lunchtime on Saturday and was drunk when he made the comments.

Stacey was initially released on bail pending sentence and was ordered not to use Twitter and other social networking sites.

Jim Brisbane, chief crown prosecutor for CPS Cymru-Wales, said: "Racist language is inappropriate in any setting and through any media.

"We hope this case will serve as a warning to anyone who may think that comments made online are somehow beyond the law."

A Swansea University spokesperson said: "The student remains suspended from the university pending the conclusion of our disciplinary proceedings."

Stacey has also been de-registered as a player with Treorchy rugby club, where he has turned out for the second team on occasions.

More people are likely to be prosecuted for making racist comments on Twitter, says media law expert Prof Duncan Bloy

Club chairman Andrew Jones said: "We haven't met as a committee yet but we recognise the need to respond at the earliest possible opportunity and we've taken the decision to de-register him as a player at Treorchy Rugby Football Club as of today."

He added: "Like other members of the public, we as a club in no way support the comments made and the last thing we would want would be to associate ourselves with them.

"I sincerely hope he takes time to reflect on his actions."

The sentencing has sparked rigorous debate on internet forums and social network sites debating the sentence comments that are made online.

Writing on Twitter, Lord Sugar - former Spurs chairman - saying "Be warned idiots!," while Gary Lineker posted "Let it be a warning to all you immature souls. #thinkbeforeyoutweet".

Also on Twitter, Mervyn Barrett of crime reduction charity Nacro said he could not help but think the sentence was "manifestly excessive".

Meanwhile, Muamba remains in intensive care in a London hospital where his condition is described as serious but stable.

Bolton and Tottenham played their re-arranged FA Cup fixture on Tuesday evening, with a minute's applause before kick-off.

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