Jail term for man who burned Koran
Monday 18 April 2011
A man who burned a Koran in front of city centre shoppers has been jailed for 70 days.
Andrew Ryan, 32, stole a copy of the holy book from Carlisle Library and then set it on fire with a lighter as a crowd gathered to hear his protests in front of a monument.
Police arrested Ryan, of Summerhill, Carlisle, shortly after the lunchtime incident in English Street on January 19.
Sentencing him at Carlisle Magistrates' Court, District Judge Gerald Chalk said: "This is a case of theatrical bigotry.
"It was pre-planned by you as you stole the book deliberately. You went out to cause maximum publicity and to cause distress."
He told Ryan that people were entitled to protest but not in the manner he chose.
The court heard the defendant had six public order convictions between 2002 and 2010 including racial chanting at a football match and assault with intent to resist arrest.
Judge Chalk said: "You are a man who has a history of violence and disorderly conduct."
Ryan pleaded guilty to religiously aggravated harassment and theft at an earlier hearing.
Prior to the hearing, a Facebook page created by the "English Defence League Carlisle Division" urged visitors to support "Division Member" Ryan in his court appearance.
Around 10 men sat in the public gallery but walked out when District Judge Chalk announced the sentence.
Comments of "what a joke" and "call that justice" were made as they left the courtroom.
Before he was led to the cells, Ryan himself said: "What about burning poppies?"
The court was told that Ryan's former probation officer witnessed him shouting and waving a book at Carlisle Cross outside the Old Town Hall in the city centre.
Ryan told him he intended to burn the Koran in a protest against the Muslim faith.
He failed in his first attempt with matches before he succeeded with a lighter.
Ryan then continued to shout abuse about the Muslim faith as he held the burning book, before he threw it to the floor and walked away, the court heard.
He then updated his personal Facebook page to reveal what he had done.
When arrested and interviewed by police, Ryan told officers: "I just hope I have not caused World War Three."
Margaret Payne, defending, said: "Mr Ryan has said to me that the incident was silly and it is not something he would do again.
"He wants to make it clear that it was directed towards radical Islam such as the burning of poppies and flags.
"He would certainly not want Muslim people to think he had problems with their beliefs.
"Mr Ryan was brought up to respect the Armed Forces. Some members of his family were in the Armed Forces and he himself served in the Army between the ages of 16 and 20 in Northern Ireland.
"What caused him to 'lose it' on that day was that he had been looking at a website which had shown radical people burning poppies and abusing British troops returning from abroad."
The defendant joined the library with the intention of borrowing the Koran but instead stole it.
His solicitor said the incident was relatively short and he acted alone.
Unemployed Ryan was also sentenced to 30 days in jail for the theft of the book, to run concurrently.
Following sentencing, Inspector Paul Marshall, of Carlisle CID, said: "Today's result shows how seriously we take hate crime in the county.
"This incident was highly unusual for Cumbria as we have such low levels of hate crime in the county.
"However, when it does occur we investigate thoroughly so that offenders, and the local community, know that hate crime will simply not be tolerated."
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