A teenage girl and 39-year old man who desecrated a mosque by attacking it with strips of bacon have both been given custodial sentences.
Eighteen-year old Chelsea Lambie from Paisley and Douglas Cruikshank from Galashiels, were told by Sheriff Alistair Noble, sitting in Edinburgh: “It does not seem to me there is any way to deal with this case other than by custody”.
In April of this year, the pair had denied behaving in a threatening or abusive manner likely to cause fear and alarm in the early hours of January 31 last year, when along with another person, they wrapped bacon around the main door handles of the Central Mosque in Edinburgh’s Potterrow and threw bacon into the premises. The Crown claimed the offence was racially aggravated.
During the five day trial, a security guard at the mosque, 34-year old Usman Mahmood, told the jury of eight women and seven men: “I was surprised if a person did it for a joke. It is against our culture and religion. We do not eat pork or even touch it. I felt very bad seeing this meat in my sacred place. It hurt my feelings when I saw this meat hanging inside the mosque in the worshipping area. It was very disturbing”. He added that the situation could have been “much worse” if there had been more people in the mosque. There was only one man in the prayer room at the time.
On the final day of evidence, after representations by defence lawyers, Sheriff Alastair Noble deleted the racial aggravation from the indictment and Cruikshank pled guilty to the amended indictment. Lambie continued to deny the charge.
The jury saw CCTV footage from a Tesco store in Dalkeith, Scot-Mid in Nicolson Street, Edinburgh, a short distance from the mosque and the outside and inside of the mosque. All three showed two men and a woman. At the Tesco store at 4.45 am on January 31, the woman asked an assistant if she knew where to get the bus for the mosque in Edinburgh as she had to be there for 7.30.
At Scot-Mid, the two men and woman came into the store at 5.55 am and bought two packets of bacon. A short time later the same trio, all hooded, arrived at the mosque. Bacon was placed around the door handles and as the woman took a picture of the men on her mobile phone, they turned to face her. Bacon was removed from one of the handles and thrown inside onto the glass partition. The three then ran away laughing and were caught on CCTV. Police officers later identified Lambie, Cruikshank and the third person as Wayne Stilwel.
When Lambie was arrested at her boyfriend’s home in Gorebridge on January 31, a Blackberry mobile phone was found in her clothing. Messages sent on January 31 included: “Going to invade a mosque, because we can go where we want”. A message to the phone asked: “What you do last night?” and the reply: “Went to the mosque in Edinburgh and wrapped bacon round the door handles, opened the door and threw it in ha ha ha”. Google searches on the phone were for the location of the mosque, addresses for taxis in Gorebridge and Dalkeith and at 14.59 on January 31: “Edinburgh mosque bacon search”.
In her evidence, Lambie, who had admitted during a police interview to being a member of the Scottish Defence League, denied taking any part in the raid on the mosque. She said she had been in her boyfriend’s house in Gorebridge all the time. As to the picture taken at the mosque and the messages, she told the court there were other people in the house and she left the phone on the living room table. “I let everyone in the house use it. It’s a contract phone, free for everything” she said and added she did not know who had sent the messages.
The jury took just over an hour to return a majority verdict of guilty on Lambie and sentence was deferred for reports on both accused. The third person involved in the attack,Wayne Stilwel from Gorebridge, had pled guilty to a religiously aggravated attack on the mosque on August 27 last year and was sentenced to 10 months.
Defence solicitor, Gordon Ritchie, told Sheriff Noble that his client had become involved in the SDL through close family connections and had gone along with the offence. “She could have said ‘No’” he added. Mr Ritchie said Lambie had now taken steps to distance herself from the organisation by returning to Paisley to live with her partner and young child. He suggested that a Community PaybackOrder would be appropriate.
Appearing for Cruikshank, Mark Harrower, reminded the Sheriff that his client had offered to plead guilty to the offence in June last year if the racial aggravation was removed, but The Crown had refused this. “As a result of that, matters dragged on. Mr Cruikshank had no option but to proceed to trial because of The Crown’s stance” he said. He added that Cruikshank had been drinking heavily for 48 hours before the raid on the mosque. “He thought his actions were a joke at the time, but has expressed empathy that it was unpleasant for the witnesses at mosque”.
Sentencing Lambie to 12 months detention, Sheriff Noble said he accepted she was a mother with a very young child, but she had continued to deny her guilt for the offence.
He accepted that Cruikshank had tried for many, many months to plead guilty and told him that if he had been found guilty at trial he would have sentenced him to 13 months in prison, but given his plea to the amended charge, he reduced that to nine months.