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Man shared ‘racist and grossly offensive’ content in online group, court hears

Content included images of Ku Klux Klan and people on fire

Armagh Courthouse

An Armagh man who shared racist hate images and videos online has been given a suspended prison sentence.

Gregory Alan Cumming, aged 57, of Orangefield Drive, pleaded guilty to a number of charges of improper use of public electronic communications, between August and October 2021.

Armagh Magistrates’ Court heard how the content, which included people on fire and references to white supremacist group the Ku Klux Klan, was shared in a private, online group.

The charges were brought following searches of the defendant’s house when his phone was seized by police and a number of messages were discovered on it.

The court was told one of the images and related text was of a person on fire, which the prosecution referred to as “racist and grossly offensive”.

Another image involved the Ku Klux Klan and a reference to ‘black heads’.

A further image sent was of a person in a mouse trap, again described as a “racist and offensive image”, while a video showed a man dousing himself in flammable liquid and setting himself on fire.

Examining the pre-sentence report, District Judge Anne Marshall noted that Cumming had previously been a member of the National Front and British National Party, and his defence counsel confirmed to her that he was no longer a member of those parties.

She said she had viewed some of the images and the videos and “he did well to finally accept and enter a plea in relation to the most serious of the offences”.

“These are concerning views that he held – I have heard they relate to the Ku Klux Klan and certainly a video of someone dousing themselves in flammable liquid and setting themselves on fire, and the racist tone of the messages, is very concerning indeed,” she said.

“He accepts now that he was in an online group and that the messages were nasty and threatening towards other people, and says that it was not an orchestrated campaign but a misinformed and misguided effort at belittling people or groups whom they did not like or had taken umbrage against.”

She added: “The public need to be aware – everybody lives a lot of their lives online nowadays but just because you are sitting in your own house .. on these sites …putting these offensive and menacing images and texts out there, that you can and will be prosecuted and dealt with by the court.”

District Judge Marshall noted that the defendant said he no longer holds these extremist views, adding: “I hope that’s right and we no longer see him before the court again.”

She sentenced him to five months in custody, suspended for 18 months.

After some discussion, she ruled that he should not be subject to an anti-social behaviour order (ASBO), as he already had the threat of custody hanging over him via the suspended sentence.

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