Man handed community sentence over anti-Muslim posts on GMP’s Facebook page
Categories: Latest News
Friday August 05 2016
Manchester Evening News reports on the sentencing of a man who posted “grossly offensive” comments on the Facebook page of Greater Manchester Police.
Stephen Bennett, 39, posted the comments in response to a police appeal about an Asian suspect sought in connection with a sex crime case.
Bennett’s comments, which have not been repeated by the paper were said to be offensive to Muslims and women. A further post by Bennett read: “Don’t come over to this country and treat it like your own. Britain first.”
Bennett, whose mother in law and sister in law are both Muslim, was reported by members of the public who saw the posts.
Bennett was accused of inciting racial hatred by users who read the posts. One Muslim witness told police he was concerned Bennett’s ‘irresponsible’ comments would ‘incite hatred’ and be a ‘potential tool for radicalisation’.
When Bennett was arrested in an early morning police raid, he told officers: “Is this about that Muslim thing on Facebook? I’m getting locked up for sticking up for my own country.”
He later admitted committing an offence contrary to the Malicious Communications Act.
Bennett’s lawyer, Andrew Higginson, told the court that his client comments were “a sad indictment of the state of our social and political discourse that whilst one is shocked, one is not particularly surprised comments like this are posted.”
He said anonymity offered by the web to trolls meant “People can say things they wouldn’t dream of saying face to face.”
Higginson also alluded to the consequences of normalising anti-Muslim views saying “It may be that the more people are exposed to offensive opinions, the more they are normalised to people who then feel it’s acceptable for them to post them.”
Bennett denied having racist sympathies but sentencing him at Manchester magistrates Court, Recorder Andrew Long said he found it “impossible to believe” Bennett would have posted the “grossly offensive” comments unless he was “at least a sympathiser” with those who expressed racist views.
Judge Long said Bennett’s comments ran “the risk of stirring up racial hatred in the present climate” and were “very serious” describing the postings as “conduct capable of playing into the hands of the enemies of this country.”
Bennett was sentenced to a 12-month community order, with 180 hours’ unpaid work.
Judge Long added: “Your remarks damaged the community in which you live, and it’s the community that you must repay.”