Page last updated at 19:33 GMT, Thursday, 4 March 2010

Atheist guilty over cartoons left at Liverpool airport

Anti-religious campaigners have condemned the conviction of a "militant atheist" who left rude images in Liverpool Airport's prayer room.

The National Secular Society called for the "draconian" law used against Harry Taylor to be changed.

Taylor, 59, of Griffen Street, Salford, denied at Liverpool Crown Court religiously aggravated intentional harassment, alarm or distress.

The Crown Prosecution Service said each case should be treated on its merits.

The atheist admitted leaving images of important religious figures in sexual poses but said he was simply challenging the views of others.

All we can do is to look at each on its merits
Crown Prosecution Service

The chaplain at the airport, who was "severely distressed" by the discoveries in November and December 2008, immediately reported the images to the police, prosecutors said.

Taylor, who has been released on bail, will be sentenced on 23 April.

The maximum sentence for such an offence is seven years in prison.

Terry Sanderson, president of the National Secular Society, said the prosecution had brought blasphemy laws "in through the back door".

'Slightly eccentric'

He said: "This is a disgraceful verdict, but an inevitable one under this pernicious law.

"It seems incredible in the 21st Century that you might be sent to prison because someone is 'offended' by your views on their religion.

"The blasphemy law was abolished three years ago, but it lives on under the guise of religiously aggravated offences and is several times more dangerous.

"Mr Taylor struck me as slightly eccentric and he acted in a provocative way."

He added: "In a multicultural society, none of us should have the legal right not to be offended. This law needs to be re-examined urgently."

The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) said it treated each case on an individual basis.

A spokeswoman said: "All we can do is to look at each on its merits.

"We had a realistic chance of conviction, which was obviously seen in what happened in court."

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