Originally published under the title “UK Man Sentenced for ‘Offending’ Muslims on Police Facebook Page.”
“Is this about that Muslim thing on Facebook? I’m getting locked up for sticking up for my own country,” said Stephen Bennett, father of seven, upon being arrested for offending Muslims in a social media post.
A man from Manchester in the United Kingdom has been sentenced to 180 hours of unpaid work and a 12-month community order after posting comments that were said to be “grossly offensive” towards Muslims.
Stephen Bennett, 39, reportedly took to the Greater Manchester Police’s Facebook page to post comments “concerning an Asian woman” as well as another which was “likely to be offensive to Muslims.”
While the Greater Manchester Police refused to disclose the details of the case to Breitbart London, he is said to have also written: “Don’t come over to this country and treat it like your own. Britain first,” according to the Manchester Evening News.
The father of seven, whose mother-in-law and sister-in-law are Muslim, was visited at his home at 8 am by police officers who arrested him under the anti-free speech Malicious Communications Act. He is reported to have said to the officers: “Is this about that Muslim thing on Facebook? I’m getting locked up for sticking up for my own country.”
The legislation, brought forward under Tony Blair’s Labour government in 2003, states that a person is guilty of an offense if they “send by means of a public electronic communications network a message or other matter that is grossly offensive or of an indecent, obscene or menacing character” or “cause any such message or matter to be so sent.” It adds: “A person guilty of an offence under this section shall be liable, on summary conviction, to imprisonment for a term not exceeding six months or to a fine not exceeding level 5 on the standard scale, or to both.”
A Muslim witness told the court that Mr. Bennett’s comments could be a “potential tool for radicalisation.”
The loosely worded law has caused legal experts to question the “menacing” nature of the legislation.
It is the same legislation that saw a man frustrated with airport delays who tweeted a sardonic threat to “blow the airport sky high!” prosecuted in a much-publicised case – the “Twitter Joke Trial” – which eventually led to a court quashing the sentence after three appeals.
A Muslim witness told the Manchester court that Mr. Bennett’s comments were “irresponsible,” incited hatred, and could be a “potential tool for radicalisation.”
The judge said his comments ran “the risk of stirring up racial hatred in the present climate” and sentenced him to a 12-month community order with 180 hours unpaid work. The judge added: “Your remarks damaged the community in which you live, and it’s the community that you must repay.”
Raheem Kassam is a Shillman-Ginsburg fellow at the Middle East Forum and editor-in-chief of Breitbart London.