'Troubled' man who made bomb threats ahead of Portsmouth v Sunderland game warned he could face jail

A man who threatened to kill “at least 150” Portsmouth fans in a “stupid, impulsive” tweet could be handed a prison sentence, a court has warned.

By Sunderland Echo
Sunday, 16 June, 2019, 23:32
He appeared at York Magistrates' Court.

Kieran Anthony Mark Richardson, 22, admitted sending two threatening tweets the day before the League One play-off semi final between Portsmouth and Sunderland on May 16.

Security had to be heightened for the game at Fratton Park after Richardson tweeted: “I wonder how many Portsmouth fans I can shoot everyone remember the Manchester Arena bombing just imagine Fratton Park going bang well let’s find out tomorrow p.s I got tickets in the Pompey end. Let’s the fun begin I’m hoping to KILL at least 150 Portsmouth fans fingers crossed [sic]”.

Portsmouth and Sunderland played in the League One play-off semi-final the day after the tweets were sent.

Richardson, of Brompton, North Yorkshire, appeared before York Magistrates’ Court charged with malicious communications after the prosecution agreed to drop a more serious charge of threats to kill.

The court heard how a social media user reported the tweets to the police.

Richardson also posted: “Bomb bomb Fratton Park went bang the Portsmouth fans all died Haha going to be fun tomorrow headline news.”

Martin Butterworth, prosecuting, told the court Portsmouth FC’s head of security said the tweets had to be taken very seriously and the club had to arrange for extra security and resources to search bags at the last minute for their biggest game of the season.

Club staff were fearful of turning up for work on the day of the game as a result of the tweets, he added.

Mr Butterwork said: “Mr Richardson was spoken to by officers on May 16, he fully admitted sending the tweets from his phone.

“He said the tweets were sent in response to a Portsmouth fan about throwing a smoke bomb.

“He is fully remorseful and admits it was stupid. He didn’t have a ticket to the game and he regrets the tweets.

“He had drank beer and taken drugs. Unfortunately this is not an isolated incident as such.”

Mr Butterworth also told the court Richardson had a history of offences relating to malicious communications.

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James Fenny, mitigating, told the court his client suffered from Asperger’s syndrome and mental health issues.

He said he has represented Richardson since 2013 and recalls him “appearing before youth court on an almost daily basis”, but he had been out of trouble for more than two years.

He added: “He is a troubled young man, he was adopted and fell out with his parents. That relationship has since got back on track.”

Mr Fenny showed the court a letter from Richardson’s mother and a neighbour - and Richardson himself had written a letter of apology to the court.

His solicitor added: “He fully co-operated with the police, he told them the pin codes for his mobile phone and accepted responsibility for the tweets.

“He said he had been on Twitter to look for football news ahead of the Sunderland-Portsmouth game and had seen a tweet from a Portsmouth fan that said words to the effect of he would give £20 to every fan who attacked Sunderland fans, or threw a smoke bomb at them.

“Mr Richardson sees this and responds very stupidly. He sends the tweet and realises what he’s done and deletes them.

“But in this day and age, people can take screenshots and the screenshots were reported to the police.”

Mr Fenny told the court police searched Richardson’s house, but found no weapons, explosives and he did not have a ticket to the game.

He added: “Officers were going to release him straight away, but the desk sergeant said it best to wait until the game was completed and there were concerns over Richardson’s own safety in case people wanted to take revenge on him.

“He was impulsive, stupid and daft and he releases that, no question. But at the time he did not appreciate that.”

Magistrates requested a full probation report of Richardson and ordered him to appear before the court again on July 1.

They told him all options were available and he could face a prison sentence.