A man posted a racially offensive comment on Facebook during a group discussion about a Bury Free Press front page, a court has heard.
Luke Janzen joined in a debate started by one of his friends about The Falcon pub, in Bury St Edmunds, being converted into a mosque, saying if that happened it would “be burned down”.
When he appeared at Bury St Edmunds Magistrates’ Court on Friday, the 22-year-old, of Clay Road, Bury, pleaded guilty to sending an offensive message by public communication network.
Prosecuting, Colette Griffiths said the case was “an unusual matter” which stemmed from Janzen posting a comment on March 17. She told the court he wrote: “If there’s going to be a mosque in Bury then the f*****’s going to be burned down.”
Janzen was arrested 10 days later after police researched the social networking site following complaints about abusive comments that had appeared on it. He told police “well, we have all got our own opinions,” said Mrs Griffiths.
She added: “He said it was a silly thought, that he was thinking if there was a mosque there, someone was bound to burn it down and not that he intended to burn it down.”
Miss Griffiths told the court Janzen had admitted what he said was wrong and she asked for an uplift on his sentence to reflect the racial nature of the case.
In mitigation, Claire Lockwood said Janzen was a man of previous good character, who lived at home with his mother and had been unemployed since March.
She said: “A friend of a friend had a copy of the Bury Free Pressand there was a discussion going on about it. He made a comment in response. He certainly didn’t mean that he was going to burn it down, or that he would be inciting someone else to do it, but what he meant was that someone might if there was a mosque in Bury.”
“Since the offence, he’s come off Facebook – he’s decided it’s not a social network he wants to use,” she said. “He accepts that there should be freedom of religion and that we live in a multicultural society. He had no thought and no understanding of how far it would go when he made the comment,” she added.
After interviewing Janzen, Carl Stoodley, from the probation service, told magistrates that Janzen was “very disgusted” by what he had written and it did not reflect his normal thinking. “I would put the offence down to basic ignorance of how his comment would be perceived,” he said.
Presiding magistrate, Sarah Hardingham, said the offence was important because it was made on a very public domain and was of a racial nature. Janzen received a 12 month community order, with 14 hours unpaid work, and was ordered to pay costs of £85.