‘No friend of mine’ says Gary Bennett

Peter Copeland, 29, of West Rainton outside Sunderland Magistrates Court after pleading guilty to sending racist tweets about Newcastle United players.
Peter Copeland, 29, of West Rainton outside Sunderland Magistrates Court after pleading guilty to sending racist tweets about Newcastle United players.
0
Have your say

SUNDERLAND legend Gary Bennett has denied knowing a Black Cats fan who made racist comments on social networking site Twitter.

Peter Copeland sent two abusive messages after becoming embroiled in an online row with a Newcastle United supporter.

Sunderland Magistrates’ Court heard how the 29-year-old claimed he was not a racist and counted ex-SAFC captain Gary Bennett – now heavily involved in the Show Racism the Red Card campaign – among his friends.

But Mr Bennett today denied knowing Copeland and said he was merely one of thousands of people whom he had added as a friend on Facebook.

Speaking out after attending a Show Racism the Red Card event at Sunderland Civic Centre, he said: “He is on Facebook, but that doesn’t mean I know him.

“I have confirmed a lot of people on Facebook. It doesn’t mean I know who they are.

“He is not a friend of mine. I don’t even know what he looks like.”

Copeland admitted two offences under the Malicious Communication Act on Monday.

Magistrates were told a report was made on the evening of Tuesday, January 17, when he tweeted about Senegalese Newcastle United striker Demba Ba and made another abusive comment about the number of black players at Sunderland’s Tyneside rivals.

Unemployed Copeland, who lives with his parents at Benridge Bank, West Rainton, was quickly forced to close down his Twitter account after receiving between 50 and 60 angry responses to his comments.

Mitigating, Ruth Forster said her client was “extremely remorseful”.

She added: “I think it is fair to say that this case may serve as a stark reminder to other users of social media sites that as soon as comments are posted online they become available to see.

“He never intended these messages to reach a worldwide audience, but attach a www tag to anything and they are there for the masses to see.”

Mrs Forster went on to say Copeland delivered a letter of apology to Newcastle United, and his mother vowed that he had no access to the internet through a computer or his mobile phone.

Sentencing was adjourned until later this month.

Twitter: @janethejourno