Homeless man who put on stray race bib at London Marathon is jailed for fraud
The 13-week sentence for Stanislaw Skupian has been greeted with incredulity in Britain
Thirty-eight-year-old homeless man Stanislaw Skupian was standing shirtless watching runners go by near the finish line of the London Marathon last month, when he saw a stray race bib on the ground. He picked it up, stuck it on his chest and ran the remaining 300 metres of the course. He strode across the line, victorious. Now, a month after being pictured kissing his finisher’s medal with the race number of a man named Jake Halliday, Skupian is being jailed for fraud.
Skupian, whose story has unfolded in the British media this past month, was sentenced by the Uxbridge Magistrates’ Court on Thursday to 13 weeks in jail for fraud and another three weeks for unrelated thefts, the BBC reported. The homeless father of one had been training for a race ahead of the London Marathon, his defence lawyer Jameela Jamroz said. He wanted to watch the race, and “in his excitement he picked up the identifier thinking this was his opportunity to compete in the marathon,” Jamroz said. “This was in fact a dream come true for him.”
Good to see we're throwing the full weight of law at homeless, potentially vulnerable individuals who "damage the reputation and integrity" of the London marathon.
BBC News - London Marathon cheat Stanislaw Skupian jailed for fraud https://t.co/MXyZqS0rXX
— andy jones (@andyjonesauthor) June 21, 2018
The charge against Skupian states that he intended to benefit himself by procuring “a finisher’s medal and other items associated with completing the London Marathon,” the Guardian reported. It is unclear what these “other items” are, but finishers of the marathon in years past have received gift bags filled with healthy snacks in addition to the medals.
Magistrate Michael O’Gorman said Thursday that “the offences [committed by Skupian] are so serious as only a prison sentence will suffice,” but many Britons on social media seemed to disagree.
Some described the sentence as “counterproductive” and “ludicrous,” while others called on Britain’s overstretched police force to focus on pursuing more serious crimes instead. Many are also criticising the organisers of the marathon for what they see as a lack of compassion for Skupian’s circumstances.
Skupian has resided in Britain for 11 years. Last year, he suffered a neck injury in a serious car crash, forcing him to take sick leave from his job as a caterer, Jamroz said. During the same period, he separated from his wife and found himself without a home. Shortly before the day of the marathon, according to Jamroz, Skupian suffered a mental breakdown.
As the outrage continues to mount, some people are taking particular offence at the remarks of Nick Bitel, the chief executive of the London Marathon. According to the BBC, he said Skupian’s actions threatened the reputation of the race. “It is good to see that justice has been done,” Bitel said after Skupian’s sentencing.
“No, Mr Bitel,” one user responded on Twitter,” it’s *you* who damaged the integrity of the race.”