A MAN who posted sectarian comments on a Facebook page about Celtic manager Neil Lennon has been given what is thought to be the toughest sentence for a football-related internet hate crime.Source: The Scotsman
Stephen Birrell, 28, was jailed for eight months for posting a string of religious and racially-motivated comments on the social networking site between 28 February and 8 March.
He was arrested in the wake of a major police operation to crack down on people who had been posting hate-filled comments related to Rangers and Celtic following their volatile Scottish Cup replay on 2 March.
Sheriff Bill Totten told Birrell, from Dalmarnock, Glasgow, that the courts had to send “a clear message to deter others who might be tempted to behave in this way”.
One of the comments, posted a day before the Old Firm clash, read: “Hope they all die. Simple. Catholic scumbags ha ha.”
Two days after the match, which triggered a Scottish Government crackdown against football-related disorder, Birrell wrote: “Proud to hate Fenian tattie farmers.”
Birrell was also handed a five-year football banning order at Glasgow Sheriff Court for writing the comments on a Facebook page titled “Neil Lennon Should Be Banned”.
His lawyer, Iain McLennan, told the sheriff that Birrell had accepted what he had done, but struggles to understand the severity of his actions.
He said: “He finds it difficult just to comprehend how serious what he did was. But he does accept that what he did was wrong and gratuitously offensive.”
The sheriff told Birrell he wanted to “send a clear message that the right-thinking people of Glasgow and Scotland will not allow any behaviour of this nature, or allow any place in our society for hate crimes”.
He said: “The use of modern communications to spread or support abuse, or target groups of people because of their ethnic or racial background, has no place in our modern society and has no place in genuine support for any football club.”
Under the Scottish Government’s new anti-sectarianism legislation, anyone posting hate-filled messages online faces being jailed for up to five years.
No wonder he struggles to understand the severity of his actions. He's not the only one.
The guy should appeal this all the way to the European Court of Human Rights. They're a bunch of utopian do-gooders, but even they might see this as an infringement on free speech too far.
It's also characteristic of third-world countries that the law is not enforced impartially. The judges and police do whatever the government tells them to do, and target whoever the government tells them to target, not as a result of changes in the law of the land but through informal channels of communication and pressure exerted from on high. That is exactly what is going on here too. Why are we suddenly seeing this spate of prosecutions for religiously-motivated hate crimes? Is it because there are more of them? No. Is it because a new law has been passed, criminalising things that weren't criminal before? No. It is because the SNP government overreacted to a football match and started pressuring police forces to carry out prosecutions. The police are supposed to be independent of the government. They are there to enforce the law impartially. But in this case they just knuckle under and do what the gubmint tells them to do - just like in a third-world country.