HMA v DAVID CRAIG

At Glasgow Sheriff Court Sheriff Martin Jones QC sentenced David Craig to fourteen months in prison.

On sentencing Sheriff Jones made the following statement in court:

“David Craig you pleaded guilty at the trial diet on 2 February 2012 to an amended bail aggravated charge of contravening Section 38(1) of the Criminal Justice and Licensing (Scotland) Act 2010.  That charge was further aggravated by religious prejudice. 

It should be made clear that the offence committed by you was against a background of a football match on the evening of Wednesday 2nd March 2011 between Rangers and Celtic football clubs played at Celtic Park in Glasgow, which I was informed by the Crown, took place in a particularly volatile atmosphere. I was also told by the Crown that during this game and in its aftermath their developed an escalating climate of violence, community disorder and sectarian hostility attracting a significant level of media attention nationally and beyond.  Following the match, officers of Strathclyde Police became aware of several offensive and threatening postings on the social networking site 'Facebook' placed during and after the match which continued to fuel that hostile climate. 

The Crown informed me that following intelligence received, police witnesses made an investigation of the Facebook page created by you.  Access to this site was freely available to the public with no security restrictions which allowed full access and viewing of material contained on your Facebook page.

You accepted posting an image on the internet, which was an image copied on to your Facebook page on 2nd March 2011 of Neil Lennon, Celtic Football Clubs Northern Irish, Catholic Manager, wearing a Celtic Football Club shirt with the words "DEAD MAN WALKING" thereon and displaying numerous bloodied bullet wounds to his torso and a bullet wound to the centre of his forehead.   The caption below this image reads, "NEIL LENNON DEAD MAN!!!!!!! UVF1".

It was the Crown’s position that the image prompted responses from others and there developed through a number of postings by you and others a series of abusive exchanges containing sectarian abuse infused with Northern Irish political phrases and Rangers slogans.  The Crown also relied upon two postings by you on 3rd March 2011, on you Facebook page, which were offensive, abusive and sectarian in their content.

I have listened very carefully to everything that has been said on your behalf by your counsel. I have considered the content of the Criminal Justice Social Work Report and I have taken account of your early statement to the police of your remorse and regret.  If you did not realise then I am sure you realise now the unacceptability of your behaviour. These remarks and the image you displayed are vile and hateful. There is no place for them in any enlightened society. Such remarks could lead others to act in a similar way and provoke hostility in others. This all leads to more of the same problem. 

Your position is not helped by the fact that you have three previous convictions.  One for theft; one for carrying a knife and one for being concerned in the supply of a controlled drug. At the time of this offence you were already on bail and also on deferred sentence for that drug trafficking offence.

I am satisfied that in all the circumstances the custody threshold has been crossed and that a custodial sentence is necessary and is the only appropriate sentence in your case.  However in your case there is an added element, which I am bound to take into account.  Following your appearance from custody on 26 April 2011 at this court in respect of the charge to which you have tendered a plea of guilty, you were released on bail.  You were subsequently arrested and appeared at this court on 30 April 2011 charged with breaching a condition of your bail order and remanded in custody.  For reasons I do not need to go into your original bail order was revoked and you remained in custody on the original charge until you were subsequently released on bail on 9 September 2011.  I am told that you spent a total of 132 days in custody.  That period in custody is one which I am bound to take into account in determining any custodial sentence and is an amount equal to almost a 9 month sentence of imprisonment.  I am also bound to apply a discount for your plea of guilty albeit in this case such a discount would be restricted as your plea was only finally agreed and tendered at the trial diet.

But for your plea of guilty the sentence of the court would have been one of sixteen months imprisonment. Two months of that is attributable to the bail aggravation. I have to apply a discount to that sentence for your plea of guilty which I fix at 2 months. I also require to deduct the period of time you spent in custody in relation to this matter by a period of 9 months leaving a sentence of 5 months imprisonment to date from 1 March 2012.  I have imposed this sentence of imprisonment because of the gravity of the offence; there being no other appropriate disposal and to deter you and others from such behaviour.

The Crown has made an application for a Football Banning Order.  That application was not opposed by your counsel. I am satisfied that the criteria necessary for making such an order have been met and I have decided to make such an order for a period of 3 years from today”.