01/05/2014 16:07 BST | Updated 02/05/2014 04:59 BST

Football Fans Who Ripped Up The Koran Convicted Of Public Order Offence

Two football fans who ripped up a copy of the Koran at an away match have been found guilty of a religiously-aggravated public order offence.

Julie Phillips, 50, tore pages from the Islamic holy book and distributed them for fellow supporters to shred amid offensive chanting last December, Birmingham Magistrates' Court heard.

She and fellow Middlesbrough fan Gemma Parkin, 18, were both spared a football banning order after being convicted of causing harassment, alarm or distress.

The Middlesbrough fans tore up the Koran at an away match against Birmingham City

Magistrates fined Phillips £300 with £400 costs, while Parkin was fined £200 and ordered to pay £400 towards the cost of her trial.

Parkin, of Kimberley Drive, and Phillips, of Kenmore Road, both Middlesbrough, denied knowing that the book being ripped apart was the Koran.

Phillips told a day-long trial she was simply making confetti to throw into the air during Middlesbrough's Championship fixture at Birmingham City on December 7, 2013.

Her co-defendant claimed she had been handed the book at a market in Birmingham city centre before the game and had not realised what it was.

But magistrates took just 30 minutes to convict both women, who were caught on CCTV after Phillips, who had been drinking, informed a steward she was ripping up the Koran.

Passing sentence, court chairman Gordon Sayers told the pair: "This was a very unpleasant offence and there was a degree of pre-planning involved."

But he said the bench was not satisfied that imposing a banning order on the women would help prevent violence or disorder at future matches.

Phillips, who has previous convictions for wounding and a public order offence, was instructed to pay a victim surcharge of £30.

Mr Sayers ordered Parkin to pay a £20 victim surcharge, telling her: "You were well aware of what you were doing - at times you were seen (on CCTV footage) to be instigating the chanting."

The magistrate told Phillips: "We have seen very clear CCTV footage of you ripping up the Koran and you passing pages to a small group of other supporters.

"We are satisfied that you were aware of what you were distributing."

Only a small section of around 700 visiting fans were involved in the incident, Mr Sayers noted, adding: "Other away supporters seemed uncomfortable.

"This behaviour was in a football stadium and was both abusive and insulting."

A third Middlesbrough supporter was fined £235 by magistrates in March for the same offence after admitting he was among a group of around 20 supporters who were handed pages of the Koran after it was smuggled into the ground inside a handbag.