Count Dankula: Man who taught pug to do Nazi salute has appeal refused

Mark Meechan fails with attempt to overturn conviction and sentence for 'grossly offensive' YouTube video

Lizzie Dearden
Home Affairs Correspondent
Wednesday 08 August 2018 18:30 BST
Mark Meechan arrives at Airdrie Sheriff Court for sentencing after he was found guilty of an offence under the Communications Act for posting a YouTube video of a dog giving Nazi salutes.
Mark Meechan arrives at Airdrie Sheriff Court for sentencing after he was found guilty of an offence under the Communications Act for posting a YouTube video of a dog giving Nazi salutes.

A man who trained his girlfriend's dog to perform Nazi salutes has been refused permission to appeal against a conviction for causing “gross offence”.

Mark Meechan, who blogs under the name Count Dankula, was fined £800 in April after being found guilty under the Communications Act over the video which was viewed more than 3 million times on YouTube.

It showed his girlfriend’s pug raising its paw apparently in response to statements including “sieg heil” and calls to murder Jewish people.

​Meechan, a Ukip member from Coatbridge in North Lanarkshire, denied committing an offence and said he made the video to annoy his girlfriend in April 2016.

He then attempted to overturn both his conviction and sentence, but was refused leave to appeal by the Sheriff Appeal Court in Edinburgh.

A letter from the court said the appeal was “not arguable and in each of its elements is wholly misconceived”.

It also dismissed arguments made by Meechan’s lawyers over the judge’s handling of witness evidence at Airdrie Sheriff Court in March and the meaning of “grossly offensive”.

“The appeal against conviction is without merit,” said the letter. “Likewise the appeal against sentence is not arguable – this was a deeply unpleasant offence in which disgraceful and utterly offensive material was very widely distributed by the appellant," it said. “This was to the considerable distress of the community in question and – just as disturbingly – to the apparent approval of a large number of persons who appear to share the appellant’s racist views.

Man who taught girlfriend's pet pug dog to perform Nazi salutes leaves court after being fined £800

“Indeed it must be observed that in the circumstance the appellant was fortunate that the learned sheriff was not considering custody as an option.”

The letter also accused Meechan’s legal team of attempting to intimidate the court when he was sentenced, by referencing "a publicly-funded appeal” and making “unprofessional and improper” declarations of support.

Meechan fundraised almost £186,000 for legal costs and has received public support from far-right figures including Tommy Robinson, who attended the sentencing hearing alongside dozens of supporters.

In a new YouTube video on his channel, Meechan suggested he would refuse to pay the £800 fine by its October deadline, or carry out any other punishment or community order the court may impose.

“I’m going to jail,” he said. “I’m obviously not happy about the fact that I’m going to have to go to jail, but I’m more than prepared to do it for what I believe in. I absolutely refuse to sacrifice my principles.”

Meechan claimed he had “suffered a miscarriage of justice” and said his lawyers were attempting to have the case looked at again by the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission.

Former English Defence League leader Tommy Robinson (centre) outside Airdrie Sheriff Court in support of Mark Meechan

“I’m not a criminal and I have done nothing wrong,” he added. “The intent and context of what I’ve done [as a joke] has been completely ignored. It should not be a criminal offence to hurt people’s feelings.”

The self-described “Professional Shitposter” has denied accusations of Nazism and racism and claims to campaign for freedom of speech.

The case provoked widespread concern from comedians and free speech campaigners including Ricky Gervais, who wrote on Twitter: “If you don't believe in a person's right to say things that you might find 'grossly offensive', then you don't believe in Freedom of Speech.”

Index on Censorship said it “fundamentally disagreed” with the ruling, saying that freedom of expression includes the right to offend and several high-profile human rights lawyers also raised concerns over the case.

​Meechan is among a raft of right-wing social media personalities to have recently joined Ukip, which is entering a Europe-wide coalition of populist parties started by the former Breitbart News chairman and White House chief strategist Steve Bannon.

Other new members include Infowars’ Paul Joseph Watson and Carl Benjamin, who posts videos as Sargon of Akkad.

Ukip was forced to suspend three other members this week - Luke Nash-Jones, Elizabeth Jones and Martin Costello – after they stormed a socialist bookshop in London with “Make Britain Great Again” signs and hats.

The group was involved in a pro-Donald Trump demonstration during the US president’s UK visit, which merged with a rally protesting Tommy Robinson’s imprisonment for contempt of court.

Robinson, whose real name is Stephen Yaxley-Lennon, has since been released on bail ahead of a new hearing over his alleged violation of reporting restrictions on a trial at Leeds Crown Court.

He emerged from prison last week with more money and increased international support from figures including Donald Trump Jr, following global publicity over his prison term.

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