A football fan who admitted abusing a Jewish journalist online has walked free from court after the judge declared that “the law prohibits me from punishing you”, following a blunder by the investigating police force.
Sam Mole, a twenty-year-old from Kettering, had sent antisemitic and homophobic messages online to freelance Jewish journalist Dan Levene, including one wishing that Mr Levene would die and another lamenting that Mr Levene had not been killed in the Holocaust.
Further abusive messages had also been sent by Mr Mole from another account that Twitter suspended. Mr Mole, a fan of Chelsea Football Club, took issue with Mr Levene’s stance in opposition to racist chanting by some fans of the club.
Mr Mole admitted to police that he had sent the abusive tweets in October 2019, but on 18th February he was found not guilty at Leicester Magistrates Court on the technicality that he was on holiday in Australia at the time, and therefore outside the jurisdiction of the law.
The District Judge Nick Watson said that the messages “undoubtedly caused deep offence” and that it was “clear the sender’s intention was for the person receiving them to be distressed”. He added that “most would think sending them should be an offence, whether the sender is in this country or abroad”.
The judge went on to observe that there may be public policy grounds for this to be classed as a criminal offence subject to English law, but that it was not up to the court to dictate public policy. Accordingly, he concluded that it was “unpalatable” that Mr Mole had “escaped the consequences of his actions even though the impact of the offence was clearly felt” and he told the defendant: “You can regard yourself as fortunate the law prohibits me from punishing you for an offence most people would say for which you should be punished.”
Mr Mole was issued a three-year restraining order prohibiting him from directly or indirectly contacting Mr Levene and posting messages about him on social media or encouraging others to do so. He was told that if he broke this order, he could go to prison.
The court heard that that Mr Mole, a trainee teacher, expressed remorse for his actions.
The judge observed, however, that if the offence had been charged as harassment, the outcome would have been different. The reason a charge of harassment could not be issued was because the police took too long to interview Mr Mole, and by the time he was interviewed the time limit for that offence had elapsed. It is understood that two police forces – the victim’s home force and the defendant’s – took four months to decide between them who should log the crime, and consequently it was almost six months before Mr Mole was interviewed, leaving the Crown Prosecution Service with little option but to charge Mr Mole with the lesser offence.
Campaign Against Antisemitism has contacted Chelsea to urge the football club to exclude Mr Mole from attending matches and the club has confirmed that it is investigating.
Mr Levene said: “The court was clear that Sam Mole’s actions were criminal but for a technicality, and this shows how victims of online hate crimes are not best served by the laws supposed to protect them. But had two police forces not tried so hard to pass the buck, it is clear this man would have been found guilty of a greater charge. This man targeted me because I shone a light on the appalling racist behaviour of some Chelsea fans, and I look forward to seeing the results of the club’s investigation into his behaviour.”
A spokesperson for Campaign Against Antisemitism said: “This was an appalling blunder by the police. The result is that a defendant who broke the law and should have been punished has escaped justice. We will be raising this failure with the police forces in question and have contacted Chelsea to ask that the perpetrator be excluded from matches. It is no surprise that three in five British Jews believe that the authorities are not doing enough to address and punish antisemitism, when the justice system can fail so spectacularly as it has here. In addition to highlighting this outrageous instance of police inaction, it also shows how Britain’s antiquated laws are unfit for dealing with online crime. The Online Harms Bill must be expedited through Parliament.”
Campaign Against Antisemitism’s analysis of Home Office statistics shows that an average of over three hate crimes are directed at Jews every single day in England and Wales, with Jews almost four times more likely to be targets of hate crimes than any other faith group.
Campaign Against Antisemitism’s Antisemitism Barometer 2020 showed that three in five British Jews believe that the authorities, in general, are not doing enough to address and punish antisemitism.