A 24-year-old woman who posted racist comments on Facebook after the death of Drummer Lee Rigby has avoided a jail sentence. Michaela Turner, of Southsea, Hampshire, was sentenced at Portsmouth magistrates court to an eight-week jail term, suspended for six months. She was ordered to pay £85 in costs and a victim surcharge of £60.
The court heard that Turner had been drinking when she made comments about the Woolwich attack on the social networking site. They included: “Feeling like burning down some mosques in Portsmouth, anyone want to join me?” She also shared other comments containing racist comments following the murder, the court was told.
Hugh Morgan, prosecuting, said the comments made and shared by Turner were of a racist nature and were of the most serious category. “These are of the higher category of its type, given the circumstances in which this incident took place. Police at that time were monitoring community tension, not just in this part of the country but across the country. This also included monitoring of internet sites,” he said. “To post such comments at any time would be unacceptable and have the potential to cause offence. It’s fortunate that there were no events in the days following these comments. The very nature of these comments created the risk that something could happen.”
Rebecca Strong, defending, said: “She is extremely remorseful and ashamed of what happened. She was with a friend, they were drinking, they had watched some clips regarding what happened in Woolwich and she was extremely upset, as is most of the country at what happened.”
Strong said Turner had stopped using Facebook and deleted the comments. “She fully accepts what she did and is very ashamed of what she said. She knows she dealt with her feelings completely inappropriately and accepts it shouldn’t have been so public and her views were ill-informed with regard to burning down mosques. There was no intention of doing that whatsoever. It was a way of trying to explain how upset she was. Alcohol had played a part in it because she had been drinking.”
Turner pleaded guilty to an offence contrary to section 127 of the Communication Act 2003.
The Portsmouth News sees fit to publish a sympathetic interview with Turner on its front page (some of her best friends are Muslims, you’ll be pleased to hear). The lesson the paper draws in an editorial comment is not that anti-Muslim racism is a serious problem in society, but rather that people with racist views who think mosques should be burned down should avoid expressing these views on Facebook.