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Forces combine to secure first banning order under new legislation

An investigation by Northumbria Police and the Met led to a man who abused footballer Ivan Toney on social media being banned from every stadium in the country.

Northumbria Police and the Met joined forces to secure the first ever football banning order issued under the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Act 2022.

Antonio Neill, 24, sent a racist message to Brentford striker Ivan Toney on October 14 last year.

After Toney shared a picture of the abuse received via his own social media account, Northumbria Police supported by the Metropolitan Police launched a full investigation.

The message, which officers treated as a hate crime, was traced to a suspect who was then living in the North Shields area.

Neill pleaded guilty to sending an offensive message on January 25, and on March 13, he was given a three-year football banning order.

This was the first of its kind to be issued under the 2022 legislation, which widened the scope for banning orders to be issued for online hate crimes relating to a person with a prescribed connection to a football organisation.

The hate crime lead for Northumbria Police, Superintendent Scott Cowie, said he was "delighted" that the seriousness of the offence has been reflected in the banning order.

He said: "Discrimination has absolutely no place in any society, whether out in our communities or online.

“I hope this reinforces our commitment to taking action against anybody who commits a hate crime – it will not be tolerated and we will do all we can to put perpetrators before the courts."

Chief Constable Mark Roberts, NPCC Lead for Football Policing, added: “This result makes it clear that there are real consequences for those people who think they can hide behind a keyboard to post hateful comments.

“I’m pleased the new legislation has enabled a banning order to be issued in this case, which shows that the police, CPS and the courts are taking these offences very seriously."

Northumbria PCC Kim McGuinness said she was "proud" of the role the force played in securing this landmark ruling.

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