Successful prosecution for online hate
22 October 2010
The Jewish Chronicle reports on an important case in the efforts to combat online antisemitism and other forms of hatred on blogs and message boards.
In March 2008, Mohammed Sandia posted the following comment, amongst others, on the online forum of The Scotsman newspaper:
jews are not fit to breathe our air. They must be attacked wherever you see them; throw rocks at their ugly, hooked-nosed women and mentally ill children, and light up the REAL ovens.
This and more comments were brought to the attention of the Press Complaints Commission, MSPs and the police by the Scottish Council of Jewish Communities. Sandia was prosecuted for this comment under the Public Order Act 1986 and, at a hearing at Edinburgh Sheriff Court, pleaded guilty to distributing threatening and insulting antisemitic material. According to the JC:
In a statement, the Scottish Crown Office pledged: "There is no place in Scotland for those who commit crimes motivated by prejudice and intolerance. The Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service takes offences of this kind extremely seriously and will continue to work closely with other criminal justice agencies to ensure that offenders are brought to justice."
At the Scottish Council of Jewish Communities, public affairs officer Leah Granat welcomed "the diligence with which the police and Crown Office followed up our original report about these appalling comments.
"The success of their prosecution underlines the importance of reporting all incidents to the police."
The problem of antisemitism and other forms of hatred on internet message boards, blogs and discussion forums is something that CST and others have raised many times in recent years. This case at least shows that it is both technically and legally possible to identify, and prosecute, the people who post inciteful messages on the internet.