Olympic 100m bottle thrower found guilty but set to escape jail
Friday, 11 January 2013
January 11 - Ashley Gill-Webb, the man who threw a plastic bottle on to the track at the start of the men's Olympic 100 metres final at London 2012, has been found guilty of public order offences.
The 34-year-old, who did not actually have a ticket for the blue riband event of the Games, was arrested after the incident on August 5 before being found guilty of two public order offences at Stratford Magistrates' Court today.
In what his lawyers described as a "manic episode", Gill-Webb, from South Milford, near Leeds, threw a plastic green Heineken bottle, which landed just behind eventual winner Usain Bolt.
The father of two also shouted abuse at the Jamaican, saying, "Usain, you are bad, you are an ****hole", but it did not affect his performance as he went on to take gold in an Olympic record of 9.63sec.
"The video, in my view, clearly shows Mr Gill-Webb checking to see if he is under observation before taking the risk of throwing the bottle," District Judge William Ashworth said, as he found Gill-Webb guilty of intending to cause harassment, alarm or distress by using threatening, abusive or disorderly behaviour, contrary to Section 4 of the Public Order Act, as well as an alternative charge contrary to Section 5 of the act.
"I am sure that he was at that point weighing up the chances of being caught."
The court heard how Gill-Webb, who has bipolar affective disorder and has since lost his job, was confronted by Dutch world judo champion and Olympic bronze medallist Edith Bosch after he threw the bottle.
A statement from Bosch was read out in court.
"I saw a man in front of me move his hand back behind his head and then forward in a throwing motion over his head," said her statement.
"I then saw a bottle hit the track.
"He then flailed his arms a second time and in that direction in anger and frustration.
"He moved to walk away but at that point I confronted him and said: 'Dude, are you crazy?'
"I was angry at what he had done, it was so disrespectful.
"I was flabbergasted."
She also claimed that she had heard Gill-Webb say: "Bolt, I want you to lose".
Other witnesses said he also shouted at other finalists, including Bolt's compatriot Yohan Blake and Justin Gatlin of the United States.
The prosecution told the court it accepted Gill-Webb was unwell but dismissed the argument about intention.
He did not give evidence at the trial and had denied the offences, however, his DNA was later found on the bottle.
Gill-Webb's wife, who was in the public gallery, wept as he was convicted of both charges.
The court heard he has two previous convictions of criminal damage.
The case was adjourned until February 4 for a pre-sentence report to be completed.
District Judge Ashworth said he was limiting the maximum sentence to a community-based penalty, and said the pressure of the case on Gill-Webb's family had been "unbearable".
Gill-Webb was granted conditional bail until his sentencing.
David Robinson, Deputy Chief Crown Prosecutor for the Crown Prosecution Service London, said: "Gill-Webb's decision to throw a bottle on to the track at the men's 100m final was reckless and irresponsible.
"This incident came close to disrupting the most-watched event of the 2012 Olympic Games, which was broadcast to millions of people across the world and for which many athletes had trained for years.
"His prosecution should act as a warning that incidents of public disorder will be dealt with robustly to ensure public events can go ahead unhindered by criminal behaviour."
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January 2013: Trial underway for man who threw Olympic 100m bottle
November 2012: Trial date set for man accused of throwing Olympic 100m bottle
August 2012: Man arrested after bottle thrown on to track moments before start of 100 metres final