Headline: Why were four men jailed for throwing a pig’s head into Blackpool mosque?
The jailing of four men for throwing a severed pig’s head into the grounds of a mosque generated a manufactured outrage online.
Thomas Ashton, 21, Andrew Warner, 31, Travis Crabtree, 25, and Steven White, 28, all admitted a charge of religiously aggravated intentional harassment, alarm or distress.
In certain circles, the victims of this hate crime receive little empathy. For the perpetrators, the prison sentence was scoffed at, and falsely compared to the £50 fine an extremist member of the banned Muslims Against Crusades received for burning a poppy in 2011.
Others focus upon the ‘prank’ angle that was used by the defence during the trial at Preston Crown Court. An angle given prominence in the Daily Mail. But a closer reading of the news reports dismisses that argument.
So what are some of the factors that potentially influenced the outcome?
Judge Graham Knowles acknowledged this factor as he told the court: “All four defendants must have been perfectly aware, in broad terms, of that death and the motivation the murderers gave for that death and the heightened state of tension in the country in general.”
Police later found a taunting and mocking message on White’s Facebook that read: “They will be fuming.” When White was arrested, a video was found on his iPhone that showed a car being driven by Warner.
The recording captured comments about Muslims and the prosecution argued that the four were aware of the significance of the pig’s head.
Ashton and Crabtree drove to the butcher’s shop to purchase the pig’s head. The other men joined the group once they became aware of the plan.
Two of the group then entered the grounds of the mosque and dumped the pig’s head (wrapped in a plastic bag) with their hoods up.
Worshippers (including women and children) saw the pig’s head as they arrived for prayers and felt upset and offended. A volunteer was only made aware of the incident after receiving a Facebook message that something suspicious was left outside the mosque.
Ashfaq Patel, the Imam at Blackpool Central Mosque, requested clemency, but it did not sway Judge Knowles, who described it as a “poisonous” crime.
He later added: “People are and must be free to worship as they please and without this kind of foul attack on them and that which they hold sacred. What you four did must be denounced.”