Court finds bottle thrower guilty of disorder
A man who got into the Olympic Stadium without a ticket then threw a beer bottle at competitors lining up for the men’s 100m final has been found guilty of public disorder.
Ashley Gill-Webb, 34, was suffering a “manic episode” when he used an old ticket to get into the Olympic Park and then the stadium, where he hurled abuse at Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt then threw a plastic beer bottle on to the track before the race on August 5.
Gill-Webb, from South Milford, near Leeds, was today found guilty at Stratford Magistrates’ Court, east London, of intending to cause 100m finalists 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.
Gill-Webb, who suffers from bipolar affective disorder, pushed his way to the front of an exclusive seating area at the stadium and started shouting: “Usain, I want you to lose. Usain, you are bad, you are an arsehole”, Stratford Magistrates’ Court heard last week.
He then threw the plastic beer bottle as the race – which Bolt won in 9.63 seconds – started on August 5 last year.
The 34-year-old was confronted by Dutch judo champion Edith Bosch, then escorted from the stadium and arrested.
The court heard that he used an old ticket to get into the Olympic Park, and then the stadium. Police never found a ticket on him.
Gill-Webb was suffering from a manic episode at the time, with an urge to be “involved” in the Olympics, the court heard.
His lawyers argued that his mental state meant he could not have intended to cause harassment, alarm or distress, but the Crown said that, although he was unwell, he knew what he was doing.
The court heard that Gill-Webb pushed his way to the front of the exclusive seating area after getting into the stadium.
Prosecutor Neil King described him mingling with members of the Dutch Olympic team, but his “shouting and jostling”, then throwing the bottle, led to a confrontation with judoka Ms Bosch.
In a statement, she described how he pushed past her to get to the front of the seating.
“He was shouting specifically at Usain Bolt. Things like ’Usain, I want you to lose. Usain, you are bad, you are an arsehole’,” she said.
“He repeated these taunts over and over – it went on and on for about two minutes.”
She saw Gill-Webb move his arm behind his head, then forwards in a throwing motion, then saw the bottle hit the track, she said.
Ms Bosch confronted him, saying “Dude, are you crazy?”
“He was trying to walk away so I pushed him hard to stop him,” she said.
“I was angry with what he had done, which was so disrespectful.”
Other witnesses saw Gill-Webb shouting at finalists including Bolt, fellow Jamaican Yohan Blake, and US sprinter Justin Gatlin.
Student Farzin Mirshahi heard him yell: “Believe in Blake, no Usain” while her brother, Kiya Mirshahi, heard: “Usain, no, Justin, you are a druggie, believe in Blake, no Usain, no.”
After the incident, Gill-Webb – who the court heard has since lost his job - was escorted from the stadium and then arrested.
His behaviour in police custody was said to be “somewhat unusual”, and he told officers that he was Scottish actor Alan Cumming, signing a statement with the star’s name.
Gill-Webb, who did not give evidence during his trial, originally denied throwing the bottle, but his DNA was later found on it. He later said he could not remember the incident.
Summing up his case, prosecutor Neil King said video footage showed Gill-Webb looking left and right, “shuffling” behind other people, then surreptitiously throwing the bottle, suggesting he knew what he was doing was wrong, and clearly had intent.
But Rhiannon Crimmins, defending, said Gill-Webb was mentally ill at the time and the video just showed a man behaving “oddly”.
Finding Gill-Webb guilty of both charges, District Judge William Ashworth said today: “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.
“I am sure that he was at that point weighing up the chances of being caught.”
He said Gill-Webb’s actions were “rational and wrong” and intended to cause harassment, alarm and distress.
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 at Thames Magistrates’ Court for a pre-sentence report to be completed.
Convicting Gill-Webb, District Judge Ashworth told the court: “The two charges relate to a period of two to three minutes before the start of the Olympic 100m men’s final on August 5 2012.
“Mr Gill-Webb made his way to the front of the spectators’ stand immediately behind the starting blocks and shouted out comments aimed at the eventual winner, Usain Bolt, and then, as the race was about to begin, threw a plastic bottle on to the track area, which landed just behind where the runners were about to start.”
He said psychiatrists for the prosecution and defence had agreed that Gill-Webb had bipolar disorder and was suffering from a manic episode but disagreed on whether he was so manic that he could not form intent.
The judge went on: “Mr Gill-Webb quite deliberately looked over his right shoulder and then round to look over his left shoulder to see if anyone was watching him and then stepped for concealment behind other spectators.
“Satisfied that he was not under observation, he threw the bottle very close to the competitors who were listening for the starting gun.”
He added: “The video, in my view, quite clearly shows Mr Gill-Webb checking to see if he is under observation before taking the risk of throwing the bottle.
“I am sure that he was at that point weighing up the chances of being caught before throwing the bottle in an effort to disrupt the start of the race and put off Usain Bolt.
“I am sure, therefore, that he was at that point acting rationally and wrongly and that he intended to cause harassment, alarm or distress to the competitors and accordingly he is guilty of the Section 4(a) offence.”
He said he also found Gill-Webb guilty of the Section 5 offence, saying he stood behind another spectator to throw the bottle because he knew what he was about to do was disorderly.
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 CPS 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.”
Gill-Webb made no comment as he left court with his wife this evening.
The incident that prompted his attention hit the headlines when Edith Bosch tweeted: “A drunken spectator threw a bottle onto the track! I HAVE BEATEN HIM...unbelievable.”
She later said: “I did like any other person would have done, I corrected it.
“I just said, ’Man, you’re crazy, what are you doing?’,” she said.
“We are here for Olympic heroes, people who are performing on the highest level, and we have to honour them, not disrespect them.”
She added: “The one thing I’m most sad about is, due to all the commotion, due to this guy, I missed out on the 100m.”
Bolt said he had been unaware of the incident while Justin Gatlin, who took bronze, said: “It was a little distraction and I didn’t know what it was.
“But when you’re in those blocks and the whole stadium’s quiet, you can hear a pin drop.”
He said the incident had not affected the race: “You just have to block it out and go out there and do what you got to do.”
And Jamaican sprinter Yohan Blake said: “I was so focused I didn’t see anything. I was so focused on just running to the line.”