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Scottish Council of Jewish Communities (SCoJeC)
Scottish Council of Jewish Communities (SCoJeC)
Scottish Council of Jewish Communities (SCoJeC)


Penalties for Antisemitic Hate Crime

3 December 2015

The Lord Advocate, Frank Mulholland QC, has written to SCoJeC to update us on the outcomes of prosecutions for antisemitic behaviour that have concluded within the past year.

During the third quarter of 2014, there were more antisemitic incidents in 6 weeks than the whole of the previous two years, many arising out of demonstrations against the war in Gaza during the summer, but also harassment on social media, and a range of more traditional forms of antisemitic activity. SCoJeC and other communal organisations received an unprecedented number of expressions of concern and anxiety from Jewish people throughout Scotland, several of whom told us that for the first time they were considering leaving Scotland. As a result, the Scottish Government funded us to conduct a study of What’s Changed about Being Jewish in Scotland which provided us with empirical evidence of the extent of the sense of vulnerability, anxiety, and alienation in the Community.

Lord Advocate, Frank Mulholland, with SCoJeC Director and Public Affairs Officer

SCoJeC also met with the First Minister, the Lord Advocate, and the Chief Constable, all of whom assured us of their concern for the welfare of Scotland’s Jewish Community, and their desire to send a strong message that Scotland has zero tolerance of antisemitism or any other form of hate crime. The then First Minister, Alex Salmond, assured us that "I we will not tolerate any form of racial or religious prejudice, and that the full force of the law would be brought down on the perpetrators of any antisemitic incidents in Scotland", and the Lord Advocate wrote to SCoJeC: “I would like to offer reassurance to your community that where any person has been abused, threatened, targeted, or otherwise subjected to criminal behaviour, then the police will investigate such cases thoroughly, and where there is sufficient evidence to prosecute, Scotland’s prosecutors will do so.”

The Lord Advocate’s recent letter reveals just how successful that policy has been.  There have been eight successful prosecutions during the year for antisemitic abuse on social media, and neo-nazi activity, as well as harassment related to the Gaza war:

In December 2014, Gavin Rehfisch pled guilty to making antisemitic comments such as "Bring back Hitler" and deliberately disrupting the two minutes silence that was being observed by a considerable number of people in Princes St Gardens, Edinburgh during the two minutes silence on Armistice Day. He was charged with a breach of the peace with both racial and religious aggravations, and was sentenced to 8 months imprisonment.

In February 2015, Steven Conboy pled guilty to shouting antisemitic remarks at the police, following a row with his mother. He was charged with acting in a racially aggravated manner and a religious aggravation was also added, and was sentenced to 100 days imprisonment.

In March, Martins Komarovski shouted antisemitic abuse at police officers who had arrested him after he became abusive towards staff at the Missionaries of Charity convent in Edinburgh. He was charged with a statutory breach of the peace with a religious aggravation, and was ordered to pay £200 compensation.

In May 2015, Brian Delaney was convicted of a statutory breach of the peace relating to his activities at the Kedem stall in the St Enoch Centre, Glasgow. A racial aggravation was deleted from the charge, and he was also acquitted of a separate charge relating to a different date. Sentence was deferred for 12 months, and he was ordered to be of good' behaviour.

In July, Barry Fisher was found guilty of a statutory breach of the peace charge, after shouting, swearing, and making derogatory remarks about the State of Israel and the Jewish faith in a Tesco store in Glasgow.  A racial aggravation was deleted from the charge and he was fined £300.

In August, Nicholas Goodwin pled guilty to sending a photograph of himself and another man standing in front of a Nazi flag to a woman he knew was Jewish. He was charged with acting in a racially aggravated manner, and was sentenced to 6 months imprisonment.

Also in August, five people were found guilty of breach of the peace charges relating to the invasion of the premises of Thales Optronics in Glasgow, where pro-Palestinian protesters had blocked the entrance to the site while others climbed onto the roof and unfurled pro-Palestinian banners. The case involved nine charges of breach of the peace and six charges of obstructing lawful activity. Three of the convicted accused were ordered to be of good behaviour for a period of 5 months, one was fined £300, and the other two received Community Payback Orders of 80 hours each.

In September, Celine Harrison pled guilty to posting several offensive antisemitic comments on Facebook referring to someone as a "wee Jew cow." She was charged with statutory breach of the peace with added racial and religious aggravations, and was fined £600.

The Lord Advocate commented:

"One of my key priorities as Lord Advocate is to tackle hate crime in Scotland. I want to reassure the Jewish community that the full force of the law will be brought to bear on anyone engaging in hateful and divisive conduct and would urge victims of all forms of hate crime to come forward and not suffer in silence. Scotland's prosecutors will investigate such cases thoroughly, and, where there is sufficient available evidence to prosecute, we will do so."

The Community Security Trust commented that "Scotland is probably the best country in the world at documenting, explaining and prosecuting antisemitism and associated issues."

SCoJeC Director Ephraim Borowski added, “During the past year, we have received many assurances from Scottish Government Ministers, from the Lord Advocate and Procurators Fiscal, and from Police Scotland that Scotland has zero tolerance of hate crime in general and antisemitism in particular, but nothing speaks louder than these convictions and the significant level of sentences imposed by the courts.”


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