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Thursday, 24 October, 2002, 15:07 GMT 16:07 UK
Sheriff's verdict in full
A sheriff has found a man guilty of inciting racial hatred by delivering hundreds of leaflets through doors in a predominantly Muslim area of Glasgow.
David Wilson, 31, is the first person in Scotland to be convicted of the charge under the Public Order Act.
Sheriff Linda Ralston found Wilson guilty at Glasgow Sheriff Court.
This is the full transcript of her opinion:
Likewise, there is little dispute as to the other facts of the case.
The issue for the court is whether the written material contained in the leaflets was threatening, insulting or abusive in nature and, if so, whether Mr Wilson delivered them with intent to stir up racial hatred, all in terms of section 19 (1) (a) of the Public Order Act 1986.
The first of these - whether the written material in the leaflet was threatening, abusive or insulting - is a matter of fact for the court to determine having regard to the whole circumstances.
At first glance, the leaflet might appear to some to contain nothing more than a factual description of events in areas of Northern England and in Pollokshields.
However, viewed in the context of the evidence, the leaflet takes on a more sinister character.
I do not intend to repeat the contents of the leaflet here.
Broadly speaking, however, the leaflet warned of a deteriorating situation in Pollokshields between the white and Muslim members of the community, which situation was said to reflect a violent trend already seen in the towns in Northern England.
It alleged that a number of attacks had recently been made on white people in Pollokshields by increasingly militant Muslim youths and that there was a threat of the use of substantial violence against white members of the community.
It was clear from the evidence that the information contained in the leaflet was substantially inaccurate.
This was not a situation recognised by people who had lived in Pollokshields for many years and who had good local knowledge.
Nor was it the experience of those involved in the local community councils, in various agencies including the west of Scotland Council for Racial Equality or of Strathclyde Police, all of whom were sensitive to these issues and monitored the position closely.
On the contrary, the evidence was that substantial efforts had been made in Pollokshields by all sectors of the community to promote good relations and racial harmony.
Alarm in the community
There was general agreement among all of the witnesses that these efforts had been largely successful.
Thus the description of events in the community and relations between its white and black members as portrayed in the leaflet was not one which was recognised by informed members of that community or supported by official statistics and experience.
That being so, the contents of the leaflets were insulting and abusive towards the Muslim community in Pollokshields. Comments of that nature which had no foundation in reality represented an affront to their dignity and undermined their standing in the community.
Moreover, in suggesting that the situation was going to get worse before it got better and warning of the likelihood of serious violence, the leaflet was clearly threatening in character.
As such, it was likely to - and did - generate alarm in the community.
Accordingly, I am satisfied that the leaflet was threatening, insulting and abusive in terms of section 19 of the Public Order Act 1986.
That being so, the remaining question is whether Mr Wilson acted with the intention to stir up racial hatred as defined by the Act.
Mr Wilson is an intelligent man.
In July 2001, he was a member of the British National Party who, along with others, participated in an organised distribution of these leaflets on behalf of that party - leaflets that highlighted Pollokshields and were for distribution in that area.
He was aware of the contents of the leaflet and had some knowledge of Pollokshields.
He must therefore be assumed to have been aware that a high percentage of the community were black Muslims of Pakistani origin and have appreciated that readers in Pollokshields would understand that it referred to those members of the community.
In the context of this case, the selective distribution in Pollokshields of inaccurate and threatening material containing anti-Muslim sentiment was clearly aimed at provoking ill-feeling and hostility towards the Pakistani community there.
To provoke such antagonism against Muslims in Pollokshields is to do so against the black, Pakistani members of the community.
There can be no doubt as to whom the leaflet was referring.
Despite its disingenuous drafting, the aim of the leaflet is clear.
Any attempt, if such attempt there was, to circumvent the legislation and defeat parliament's intention has failed.
Accordingly, I am satisfied that Mr Wilson distributed these leaflets with the intention of stirring up racial hatred as defined by section 17 of the Act; that is, racial hatred towards a group of persons living in Britain on the basis of their colour and nationality.
In the circumstances of this case, it is difficult to imagine what other purpose lay behind such behaviour.
That it in fact caused fears within the community that violence would result lends weight to that conclusion.
In reaching a verdict of guilty as libelled, I should say that had I not been persuaded that the statutory requirements had been met, I would have been satisfied that the circumstances amounted to a breach of the peace and would have convicted accordingly.
24 Oct 02 | Scotland
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