A SUNDERLAND fan who sent racist tweets has been spared jail.
Peter Copeland sent the hate-filled jibes after arguing with a rival Newcastle United supporter on the social networking site.
The 29-year-old was given a four-month prison sentence at Sunderland Magistrates’ Court yesterday, after pleading guilty to two offences under the Malicious Communication Act earlier this month.
However, District Judge Roger Elsey suspended the sentence for 18 months after hearing that Copeland, of Benridge Bank, West Rainton, deeply regretted his actions and had been offered a job.
The court heard that the offensive tweets were reported to police on the evening of Tuesday, January 17.
Prosecutor Rachael Dodsworth told the court that Copeland tweeted about Senegalese NUFC striker Demba Ba and made another abusive comment about the number of black players at Sunderland’s Tyneside rivals.
Defending, Ruth Forster said it was easy for messages posted on social networking sites to go “viral in no time.”
She added: “Immediately as it goes online, it becomes open for the masses to see.
“Mr Copeland now realises the stupidity of his actions in posting something like that on Twitter.”
Mrs Forster went on to say Copeland, who is awaiting sentence for a separate burglary case, had received threats of violence against him and his family from outraged tweeters.
Sentencing, District Judge Elsey told him: “Racism stems from ignorance and is unacceptable wherever it is found.
“I hope that you never again use racist abuse of this nature.”
He was also ordered to carry out 150 hours of unpaid work and pay £85 towards court costs.
An earlier hearing was told that when interviewed by police, Copeland said he was not a racist and counted former Sunderland captain Gary Bennett – now heavily involved in the Show Racism the Red Card campaign – amongst his friends.
However, the SAFC legend later strenuously denied knowing Copeland, saying a racist was “no friend of his”.