An internet troll has been fined for posting an offensive comment online about a teenager who died in police custody.
Rowan O’Connell, 23, of Back North Crescent, St Annes, added racist comments to a forum on the Reddit social media news website.
The forum discussion was about the police handling of an incident at the Liverpool One shopping centre in July, during which 18-year-old Mzee Mohammed was arrested.
His death in custody is currently being investigated by Independent Police Complaints Commission.
O’Connell pleaded guilty at Sefton Magistrates Court to sending a communication which was grossly offensive.
Prosecutor David Maxwell said police were conducting intelligence research when they came across the offensive post under the name Rolfie 420. Mr Maxwell said the post referred to articles O’Connell said he had read in the media and which he said referred to witnesses describing Mohammed as having been bare-foot, wielding a 12-inch machete and trying to rob two teenage girls of their mobile phones, before knocking over an elderly woman damaging her back.
“He was a good for nothing spice smoking monkey from Toxteth”, O’Connell posted.
Following an investigation officers identified O’Connell as the author of the post and after his details were circulated he handed himself in to Blackpool Police Station, Mr Maxwell said.
Solicitor Nick Archer, representing O’Connell, said: “For lots of reasons my client deeply regrets it.
“He does not consider himself to be a racist.
“The post was on the Reddit website, a national news forum where there were lots of comments denigrating police actions in that case and laying the blame at police’s door.
“He’d had a drink that night and in that context he posted what he posted. If it weren’t for the single word monkey, we would not be here. He would not be here now.”
Mr Archer told the court that a backlash following the comment led to O’Connell getting sacked from his job.
He said: “His then employment had a Facebook account where a large number of abusive comments were sent to the detriment of his employer.
Rejecting a request to grant him a conditional discharge, the magistrates fined him £275 and ordered that he pay £115 in costs and victim surcharge.
Chairman Frank Dainty said: “Trolling always has a victim. As Mr Archer has pointed out that Reddit is a national website, so there are more opportunities for victims. One day you are going to be the victim and that day is today. You need to think about what you say and how it effects other people.
“I make it clear that any racial offence that comes before the court will be severely dealt with.”