This case is remarkable in different ways.
A couple were jailed on Friday for glorifying the murder of the soldier Lee Rigby in videos posted on YouTube that were “offensive in the extreme.” Royal Barnes, 23, and his wife Rebekah Dawson, 22, of Hackney, north-east London, recorded and uploaded three videos shortly after the murder in Woolwich, south-east London, last May.
Barnes was jailed for five years and four months at the Old Bailey after admitting three counts of disseminating a terrorist publication and one of inciting murder. Dawson admitted disseminating a terrorist publication and was jailed for 20 months. …
Before sentencing, Judge Brian Barker QC asked Dawson’s lawyer to confirm the defendant was the woman in the dock in the full veil. Earlier this year, Dawson admitted an unrelated charge of witness intimidation, after she waived her right to give evidence in her defense, arguing it was against her religious views to remove her veil.
Barnes has previous convictions for using threatening words or behavior, and one for assault on a security guard at a mosque. He also has a five-year antisocial behavior order for taking part in vigilante patrols of east London promoting sharia law, the court was told.
The robust sentences notwithstanding, it’s bizarre that British courts still kowtow to the sartorial choices of the religious. Rebekah Dawson, like other Brits, should appear in court without being allowed to disguise her identity full-time. Dawson’s insistence on wearing the full veil before British magistrates is a good example of respect demanded but not given. Just as importantly, her clothing is a security concern, a ruse waiting to happen. Maybe I’ve seen too many crime movies and courtroom dramas, but I find it easy to imagine a scenario in which a defense lawyer is either under coercion from, or voluntarily in cahoots with, his or her clients. Shenanigans, including some clever switcheroo and the escape of a defendant, could occur if those appearing before the court may dress in head-to-toe muumuus.
I’m glad the pair are going to spend considerable time behind bars for incitement to murder. That charge was considered proven when the court reviewed the following June 2013 Facebook post by Barnes (who was friends with one of Lee Rigby’s killers):
Any1 who kills an invading soldier in Muslim land I will give them a Vauxhall Astra 3door and money (French British American any kaffir soldier take ur pick).
Dawson’s conviction is perhaps more problematic. It’s unclear from the articles I read what she had to do with her husband’s post, or with the YouTube videos that he distributed. If the court considers it proven that she intimidated a witness, that could account for her sentence.
About those videos:
The court heard the first of the three videos was made on the day Rigby was murdered, with Barnes hailing it as a “brilliant” day. It was edited with graphic images of a man holding a decapitated head, a scene of the Woolwich murder and the Twin Towers, and posted on YouTube the following day.
The second video contained the same edited images and included Dawson ranting about how British troops would be killed in London.
In a follow-up, Barnes mocked the outpouring of public grief, laughing as he drove past floral tributes with Dawson.
If the phrase “how British troops would be killed in London” refers to a gleeful prediction by Barnes, rather than a statement in which he actually eggs on his fellow fundies to go out and commit murder, I don’t quite see how that’s incitement. The other two videos would be as objectionable in the United States as they are in the U.K., but, if the Guardian‘s descriptions are accurate, they offer no grounds for prosecution under U.S. law; the threshold for incitement isn’t met. Hailing someone’s gruesome murder as “brilliant,” and cackling mockingly over mourners’ floral displays, is nasty indeed, but it’s also protected speech.
Given Barnes’ prior record, though, which reveals the violent thug he is, I can’t say I blame the court for cracking down on him as it did.