Friday, 11 January 2013


This article appears in today's Leicester Mercury:
Protester who tore up Koran has case dropped at Leicester court
A man who was put on trial after staging an anti-religion protest by ripping out pages from the Koran in front of Muslims has had the case against him dropped.
A jury at Leicester Crown Court failed to reach a verdict in the case against Peter James Crawford last month.
The Crown Prosecution Service reviewed the evidence and a decision was made not to continue with a fresh trial.
The case was dropped against Mr Crawford, 52, when the prosecution offered no evidence against him at a hearing – a move described by Mr Crawford's advocate as "sensible".
During the trial in December, Mr Crawford was alleged to have torn pages from his own copy of the Koran and thrown the holy book on the ground next to a stall run by the Islamic Information Centre, near the Clock Tower, in Leicester, on May 12 last year.
He told Muslim volunteers at the stall that he disagreed with their religion.
Mr Crawford, of Mere Road, Spinney Hills, Leicester, claimed in interview he was expressing his disagreement with religion of any kind, saying it was all "b******t".
He told police he would have done the same with a Bible as he did not understand either holy book and "hated" all religion.
"I'm not against the people, just their religion," he said.
James Bide-Thomas, prosecuting, said in his opening address to the jury last month that freedom of speech was "tradition in this country" and "people are entitled to say what they want, as long as it's not illegal in relation to the law which prevents people going out to cause harassment, alarm or distress by insulting behaviour".
He said: "It's for you to decide whether what he did was insulting or whether it was a legitimate piece of freedom of speech being exercised, or whether what he did was deliberately calculated to upset the people from the Islamic Information Centre."
The jury told the judge there was no prospect of them reaching either a unanimous verdict or one on which at least 10 of them agreed.
Mr Crawford had denied causing religiously aggravated intentional harassment, alarm or distress, by demonstrating hostility based on membership of a particular religious group.
Speaking this week, Mr Crawford's defence advocate during the trial, Steven Newcombe, said: "I think the prosecution made a sensible decision not to have a retrial in the light of the jury being deadlocked.
"There were other ways of dealing with this matter, rather than attempting to prosecute Mr Crawford in a crown court.
"He has learned a lesson and I'm sure he will conduct himself with a greater degree of sensitivity."
A spokesman for the Crown Prosecution Service said: "When jury cannot decide on a verdict, the prosecution must decide whether to seek a retrial on the basis of the same evidence.
"A number of factors must be taken into account, including the likely penalty if the defendant is found guilty, the time delay in securing a date for the retrial, the views of the victim, judiciary and police and the likelihood of another jury reaching a decision."
Mr Crawford was not available for comment.

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