An Irish teenager who admitted racially abusing football pundit Ian Wright has escaped a criminal conviction.
Patrick O’Brien, of Tralee, County Kerry, abused the former Arsenal and England striker in private messages on Instagram last May after he lost a FIFA game on PlayStation.
The 18-year-old pleaded guilty to harassing Wright on May 11, contrary to the Non-Fatal Offences Against The Person Act 1997, and sending a message by phone that was grossly offensive, obscene and menacing.
At a sentencing hearing at Tralee District Court on Wednesday, Judge David Waters said he “didn’t see anything to be gained” by imposing a criminal conviction, and handed O’Brien probation.
He noted O’Brien had shown genuine remorse for his actions, and had donated 500 euros (£440) to the Irish Network Against Racism out of his own volition.
The judge said the language used by O’Brien was reprehensible, but was the unthinking behaviour of a “a naive young man”.
He added that O’Brien had written an apology to Wright, which was accepted by the former footballer who forgave his abuser.
Judge Waters said he had received a “very positive” probation report on O’Brien, which said he had co-operated in full, made full and frank admissions of his guilt, and had been in non-stop contact with his probation officer and was very co-operative.
His family are law-abiding, decent people, his solicitor Patrick Mann told the court.
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.