Islamophobia Watch alerts us to a local report on the suspended sentences handed down to two men from Wales for racist and Islamophobic comments posted on Facebook.
From the South Wales Argus:
“Two Gwent men escaped a jail sentence yesterday after they admitted writing offensive comments on Facebook.
“Cwmbran Magistrates’ Court heard labourer James Rogers, of Deepweir, Caldicot, wrote on his Facebook account on March 25: “What the ****? Just at Magor Services and there was a Muslim rag head praying on a mat. Makes me sick.”
“His friend Richard Orzel… replied to the post writing: “Spit on the ****” to which Rogers replied saying he would have “kicked the **** out of him” if there hadn’t been any CCTV around.
“The men yesterday pleaded guilty to making offensive, indecent, obscene or menacing comments on a public electronic communications network on March 25.”
“District Judge Richard Williams said the problem with these kinds of messages was that they had a degree of permanence and were capable of being seen by a number of people.
“He said while the man to whom the comments referred to was probably unaware of them, Rogers and Orzel had still put “corrosive and offensive” words into the public domain which he said caused damage to the wider society.
“Rogers, 21, and Orzel, 29, were spared jail and were instead handed 28 days’ imprisonment, suspended for 12 months.
“They were each also ordered to complete 200 hours unpaid work and must pay £85 court costs.”
An editorial in the local paper observes the increase in the number of prosecution cases brought for hate speech posted online:
“People post messages believing they are only being seen by themselves and their friends. In most cases, the reality is they are publishing their thoughts to the world.
“Publishing brings with it a whole host of legal issues. Editors of newspapers or magazines or websites have to stop and think twice about what they publish. So should anyone using social media.
“Those who bleat about freedom of speech in these instances are utterly incorrect.
“Freedom brings with it responsibility. And giving voice to your thoughts – whether that is by posting of Facebook or shouting in the street – means the laws of the land are applicable to you.
“Rogers and Orzel certainly deserved to be brought before the courts for their online rantings.
“Sadly they will not be the last to learn such a lesson. “
Only yesterday, a man from Southampton was handed a three-year prison sentence for inciting riot, disorder, and attacks on Muslims during the riots in the UK last summer. The judge sentencing the man described it as a “deterrent sentence”. There have also other arrests for similar offences including the arrest in April of five suspected EDL supporters on suspicion of making racist comments on social networking sites, and a further arrest of a man also with alleged EDL links, in connection with threats made on Facebook to carry out an ‘Oslo-style’ attack against Asian restaurants in Tyneside.
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