Four men have been jailed for a total of more than three years over the throwing of a pig’s head into the grounds of a mosque two days after the murder of soldier Lee Rigby.
Preston Crown Court heard the incident at Blackpool Central Mosque described as a prank that went horribly wrong as four men appeared for sentence over their involvement in the attack.
The judge said he had considered a request by the mosque’s iman Ashfaq Patel – made in Saturday’s Gazette – for the defendants to be spared jail.
Mr Patel said: “As long as they realise what they did was offensive and wrong, I don’t think they should end up behind bars.”
Yesterday judge Judge Graham Knowles told the defendants: “Even now the Imam asks for mercy for you and strives to understand you.”
Thomas Ashton, 21, of Dudley Avenue, Layton, 30-year-old Andrew Warner of Browning Avenue, Lytham, Travis Crabtree, 25, of Inver Road, North Shore, and 28-year-old Steven White of Vicarage Mews, Marton, all admitted a charge of religiously aggravated intentional harassment, alarm or distress.
Ashton was given 10 months prison, Warner seven months, Crabtree 14 months and White eight months.
The offence took place on May 24 last year, two days after Fusilier Lee Rigby was murdered by Islamic extremists in Woolwich, South London.
Judge Knowles described it as a “poisonous” crime.
He added “People are and must be free to worship as they please and without this kind of foul attack on them and that which they hold sacred. What you four did must be denounced.”
Clare Thomas, prosecuting, said a volunteer saw a carrier bag in the mosque car park.
Miss Thomas said “Sticking of the bag was a pig’s ear and he realised it was attached to a pig’s head. He described himself as being totally shocked.
“It sent a shiver down his spine. Pigs are forbidden for Muslims to touch or have contact with.
“It’s presence at a place of worship was highly insulting. Parents and children had started to arrive at the mosque. Some of them saw the head and felt offended and angry.”
The item was removed by the police. An investigation began and a Facebook message was traced to White.
When White was arrested his iPhone was seized and a video was found showing a car being driven by Warner.
Comments were made about Muslims, which would indicate the defendants knew of the significance of a pig’s head, said the prosecution.
Ashton and Crabtree had gone to buy the pig’s head.
The other two were told what would happen and joined in.
Barristers for the defendants described it as a prank that had gone horribly wrong.
A police spokesman said: “We take all such indents extremely seriously.
“Even if this were intended as a prank it was seriously misguided and those involved should have realised the sensitivity and offence that their actions have undoubtedly caused.”