Tuesday, March 08, 2011

fine for burning

In this post I wrote about the members of a group called Muslims Against Crusades who, just as the 2 minute silence of commemoration of our war dead and injured was starting, chanted ‘British soldiers burn in hell’, ‘British troops are murderers', held banners which read ‘Islam will dominate’ and ‘Our dead are in paradise, your dead are in hell’, and burned poppies. I said then that the sentence could be very minor.

And very minor it was for the main protagonist, just a £50 fine (plus a £15 surcharge). This has provoked outrage amongst many, including some of the press. But the sentence was to be expected (although could have been a higher fine) because the offence he was charged with, namely a section 5 public order is a low level offence, the lowest that could have been charged.

Some argue that a low sentence was right because it prevented him from becoming a martyr. But that is not how sentences work nor should work. The effect on the status of the offender within his community or peer group is not a purpose. He can still proclaim himself a martyr anyway and probably will after further convictions, which are almost inevitable, going by his own promises. Some argue that he should not have been brought to court at all as all he did was exercise his right to free speech. But that right does not give a licence to disrupt ceremony nor to cause great upset and distress to people, nor to make remarks that will defame the dead and disgust the living.

But the big question is why the charge was not one of committing a racially aggravated public order offence, because racially aggravated it very clearly was.



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