SENTENCING STATEMENTS

 

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HMA v Stuart Ben Smith

 

Jul 5, 2021

At Glasgow Sheriff Court today, Sheriff Sean Murphy sentenced Stuart Ben Smith to a restriction of liberty order requiring that he remains within his home address between the hours of 7 pm and 7 am daily for a period pf six months after the offender posted a grossly offensive message on Twitter.

 

On sentencing, Sheriff Murphy made the following statement in Court:

“The principal offence of which you have been convicted is a significant one. You misused Twitter to post a grossly offensive message containing derogatory remarks about Islam through your comments about a person of that faith who held – and holds – a prominent place in Scottish life. Your behaviour was nothing less than an exhibition of narrow-minded religious bigotry. Prejudice of this kind has no place in modern Scotland in the twenty-first century and you should be ashamed of yourself. 

When cases like this one come before me, as, regrettably, they have done more and more often in recent years, I find it impossible to understand why people like you, sitting alone somewhere with access to social media, think it is acceptable to transmit to the rest of the world hateful messages without having to look in the face the people that you are talking to or talking about: that is a form of moral cowardice. Your offence was one of abusive behaviour which sought to incite resentment and hatred towards others on the basis of their religious belief, and at a particularly sensitive time on the day after the dreadful events on France. That is why offending of this kind is sufficiently serious to merit a sentence of imprisonment, to punish you and to deter others from imitating this kind of behaviour.

In relation to the lesser complaint, you have pled guilty to failing to appear in this court for a hearing in this case late in 2018. By doing so you delayed the course of justice. Court hearings involve significant public expense and when you stop one from taking place the cost falls unfairly on the taxpayer. It is socially irresponsible behaviour of a high order.

I have taken into account all that has been said on your behalf. I note in particular that there has been no further offending in the period since the substantive offence was committed apart from your failure to appear. You have a limited record of previous offending, none of which is analogous. Your personal circumstances are restricted and your health is poor. 

In relation to the contravention of section 38(1) of the Criminal Justice and Licensing (Scotland) Act 2010you will be placed on a restriction of liberty order requiring that you remain within your home address between the hours of 7 pm and 7 am daily for a period pf six months as an alternative to custody. There will be no separate penalty in relation to the statutory aggravation because I have taken that into account in determining this sentence as it is at the centre of the offence itself.  

In relation to your contravention of section 27(1) (a) of the Criminal Procedure (Scotland) Act 1995 you were arrested under warrant and held to appear from custody: accordingly you will be admonished and dismissed in relation to that matter.”