Councillor to face no further action on Facebook postings

05/07/2013

The West Midlands Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) has advised the police that there is insufficient evidence to charge former County Councillor, Eric Kitson, aged 59, with inciting religious hatred following allegations that offensive comments and material were found on his social media site.

On 3 May 2013, Mr Kitson was elected as a UKIP County Councillor for Stourport, Worcestershire. On 15 May 2013, a complaint was received by West Mercia Police regarding Mr Kitson's Facebook account which contained postings about Islam and Muslims, which were made between June and November 2012.

Mr Kitson voluntarily interviewed and his computer as well as mobile telephone was interrogated. A file was then forwarded to West Midlands CPS by the police to make a decision on whether any criminal offences had been committed.

Jayne Salt, Head of the West Midlands CPS Complex Casework Unit, said:

"Having had an opportunity to review all of the evidence which was made available to us by the police, we looked at a number of options to examine whether any criminal offence had been committed.

"In order to prosecute any case, according to the Code for Crown Prosecutors, we have to be satisfied that there is sufficient evidence to provide a realistic prospect of securing a conviction and that it is in the public interest to pursue the prosecution. In this case there was insufficient evidence to provide a realistic prospect of securing a conviction.

"In order to prove an offence of inciting religious hatred, firstly the words, material or behaviour must be threatening. Language, images, and behaviour that may be considered abusive or insulting are not covered by these provisions. Secondly the requirement in all cases is that the person intended to stir up religious hatred. A mere likelihood that this may result is not sufficient in law.

"The evidence in this case was sufficient to prove to a jury that Mr Kitson was posting these messages by copying them to his Facebook page. Whilst many will have found them wholly socially unacceptable, there was not sufficient evidence to show that they were either threatening or posted with an intent to stir up religious hatred. Therefore, this did not reach the evidential standard required to enable a prosecution.

"As the case did not pass the evidential stage, we have advised the police to take no further action against Mr Kitson.

"Where we have sufficient evidence that a crime has taken place because of hostility to someone's religion, we will robustly prosecute such cases.

"People from all communities have a right to be protected from the prejudice at the root of religious hate crime, and we are determined to play our part in this."

Additional information:

Case law and legislation suggest that reference to Muslims and Islam are as specific religious groups not racial groups, thus the references in this case were deemed as religious not racial.