Middlesbrough fan wins Blackburn Rovers 'monkey gestures' appeal

Ernest Goult Image copyright PA
Image caption Ernest Goult said the gesture he made was intended to mean "the pits" or "smelly"

A football fan who was found guilty of making monkey gestures at three black players during a Championship match has won an appeal against his conviction.

Ernest Goult, 72, was found guilty of a racially aggravated public order offence following Middlesbrough and Blackburn Rovers' game in 2014.

However, he claimed the gesture meant "the pits" or "smelly".

An appeal panel at Teesside Crown Court said they could not be sure the gesture was racist.

Blackburn players Lee Williamson and Markus Olsson and Aston Villa striker Rudy Gestede, who was at the club at the time, gave evidence against Mr Goult.

Mr Williamson said he noticed the "pathetic" 72-year-old as he was walking over to the Blackburn supporters, who were seated in the away section of the Teesside club's Riverside Stadium, while Mr Gestede said he was "shocked" to see the gesture.

Mr Olsson said the French forward had got angry as a result.

Image caption Rudy Gestede, left, Markus Olsson, centre, and Lee Williamson gave evidence against Mr Goult

Representing Mr Goult, Giles Grant said the one-armed gesture was derogatory but meant "the pits" or "smelly", adding that a monkey gesture would usually be accompanied by facial expressions and an "oo-oo" noise.

Giving evidence, Mr Goult denied he held "negative or poor views" of the footballers because their race.

The retired steel worker said the gesture was used in that industry to express displeasure, often in a noisy environment, a claim which was confirmed by another former worker.

Judge Simon Bourne-Arton, who heard the appeal alongside two magistrates, said the players genuinely felt it was a racist gesture, but the appeal panel could not be sure.

He added that while it had been proved that Mr Goult caused alarm and distress, he had not made the typical "utterly objectionable" monkey gesture, where both arms were used along with the "whooping sound of a baboon".

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