A man who said Captain Sir Tom Moore should “burn auld fella buuuuurn”, the day after the 100-year-old fundraising hero died, has been found guilty of sending a “grossly offensive” tweet.
Joseph Kelly, 36, posted on the social network Twitter on February 3 last year that “the only good Brit soldier is a deed one, burn auld fella buuuuurn”.
Kelly, of Castlemilk, Glasgow, was found guilty of sending the “grossly offensive” message following a trial at Lanark Sheriff Court – with Sheriff Adrian Cottam saying his “gratuitous insult” about Sir Tom was made “with only offence in mind”.
Sheriff Cottam told Kelly: “This is a man who had become known as a national hero, who stood for the resilience of the people of a country struggling with a pandemic and the services trying to protect them.
“His statute and the view of society towards him must be looked at in that light and therefore any comment likewise.
“What the accused chose to write, when and how it was said, can only be regarded as grossly offensive.”
At one point in the trial Sheriff Adrian Cottam threatened to put Kelly in the cells if he did not stop shaking his head as prosecutor Liam Haggert spoke about Sir Tom.
Cameron Smith, defending, had argued that the tweet could not be described as “grossly offensive”. While it might be “unpleasant” and “unsavoury”, he said, it did not pass the threshold.
He told the hearing that the message was not about a protected characteristic, like race, religion, or gender, and did not incite violence.
Sir Tom, who captured the hearts of the nation with his fundraising efforts during the first coronavirus lockdown, died in Bedford Hospital on February 2 after testing positive for Covid-19.
He walked 100 laps of his garden before his 100th birthday, raising more than £32 million for the NHS, and was knighted by the Queen in recognition of his efforts.
One person who saw the tweet, Janet Hunter Jess, told the court of her hurt at the message.
The 72-year-old, whose family served in the armed forces, said: “To see someone wishing British soldiers dead, it still hurts me. It still hurts me that anybody would disrespect someone that had given their live for the country.”
Another person who saw the tweet, Luzier Jeffery, Kelly’s neighbour at the time, said she was “shocked” when she saw the message.
Ms Jeffrey, 51, stated: “First of all, the gentleman in question had done so much to raise awareness and funds for the NHS in England and became a bit of a national hero at the time, but then the fact it referred to British soldiers as well.
“If you have had anybody who fought for your country, it just left a bad taste.”
She said told the court that she spoke to Kelly after he was arrested, adding that he told her that he had “done a lot of stupid things in my time but that’s one of the worst”.
She said: “He regretted it from what I can remember, it was a spur of the moment (thing).”
The charge under the Communications Act said that Kelly made a post to the public using social media that was “grossly offensive or of an indecent, obscene or menacing character, and that did utter offensive remarks about Captain Sir Tom Moore, now deceased”.
Kelly has been released on bail, and will appear before the court again in March for sentencing.
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