Middlesbrough fan ripped up pages from Koran

Mark Stephenson
Mark Stephenson
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A football fan who ripped up pages torn from a copy of the Koran by another supporter has admitted a charge of threatening behaviour.

Middlesbrough season ticket holder Mark Stephenson was fined £235 by magistrates, who heard that the 25-year-old was “shocked and appalled” at his own actions.

Stephenson, from Shrewsbury, committed the religiously-aggravated public order offence last December during Middlesbrough’s Sky Bet Championship fixture at Birmingham City.

The £22,000-a-year purchasing manager was among a group of around 20 visiting supporters who were handed pages of the Koran by a woman who took the Islamic holy book out of her handbag during the match.

Prosecutor Jonathan Purser told Birmingham Magistrates’ Court that Stephenson, who has no previous convictions or cautions, was seen with a lighter, apparently pretending to set fire to some of the pages.

The “through and through” fan, who was ordered to pay £105 in costs and a £23 victim surcharge, also told a steward who asked what the book was: “It’s the Muslim bible, we hate Muslims.”

Other fans were shouting and chanting at the time of the offence, and the words “Koran, Muslims and burning” were overheard by a steward.

Defence solicitor Ash Mistry told magistrates that his client, who also follows England abroad, had been drinking alcohol before the match and at half-time, and had very little recollection of his “inflammatory” actions.

The lawyer told the court: “He is in no way racist and he holds no racist views towards Muslims.”

Stephenson, of Napoleon Drive, Bicton Heath, was deeply remorseful for what was an isolated incident, Mr Mistry submitted.

Magistrates opted not to impose a football banning order on Stephenson.

Passing sentence, chairman of the bench Ronald Healy said: “The incidents that we have had described to us are extremely unsavoury and extremely regrettable.