Folkestone mosque arson attack was not a hate crime, culprit was “simply drunk”

Folkstone mosque

The case of a man who put burning tissue paper through the letter box of a mosque in Folkestone where an imam was sleeping is not being treated as a hate crime because the perpetrator was drunk.

A judge heard the attack was not a hate crime because 29-year-old Phillip Donovan was drunk.

Donovan, who was living near the mosque in Foord Road South at the time, also set a VW car alight in the same street.

But he escaped going straight to prison after Canterbury Crown Court heard he had drank up to 13 cans of lager before the attack in March this year.

His lawyer, Kerry Waitt, said Donovan, who now lives in Inglesby Road, Canterbury, has a low IQ and a psychiatric report revealed he was someone vulnerable to suggestions by others.

Prosecutor David McNeill said the arsonist was caught on CCTV carrying lighted paper to the mosque.

Mr McNeill said: “Fortunately the tissue paper fell on the outside and not on to the floor of the mosque, where there was dry carpet.

“No damage was caused to the mosque; had the tissue fallen inside, then far more
serious harm could have been caused.”

Donovan pleaded guilty to two charges of reckless arson and was given an 18-month jail sentence, suspended for two years.

The court heard how the car owner, Michal Miskovic, left her home at 4am to find the rear of her vehicle alight.

Mr McNeill said: “It wasn’t clear how the fire had started. She called her husband and he put out the fire by pouring water over it.

“Near the car was a piece of burning wood, which seems to have been taken from a nearby garden fence. The back of the car was significantly damaged.”

The prosecutor said police officers were alerted and discovered tissue paper had been put through the letterbox of the nearby mosque, where Imam Abdul Awal was asleep in one of the rooms.

Mr McNeill said: “They retrieved CCTV which showed Donovan approaching the mosque at 4.02am.

“He was stumbling and seemed to be drunk. He was carrying tissues which were on fire.”

Donovan was arrested and told officers he did not belong to any hate groups, which was accepted by the Crown Prosecution Service.

He also admitted being depressed and having suicidal feelings and had stabbed himself in the leg before police had arrived, the court was told.

Mr Waitt said CCTV revealed others were present who “may have encouraged him to behave in this way”.

He said: “This is not a case where there is any suggestion of a racial element to the crime, no suggestion he harbours any unkind thoughts towards any religion or race.

“Neither has he any fascination with fire and has no history of starting fires.”

Donovan was ordered to pay £250 compensation.

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