Damedeeso/DreamstimeDeclaring a joke video of a pug giving a Nazi salute to be "menacing", a court officer in the United Kingdom today fined a man £800 (about $1,100) for violating the country's hate speech laws. In the video, Meechan appears to be trying to teach the wrinkly-faced dog to raise its paw in response to certain phrases, including "Sieg Heil" (Hail victory - pronounced "zeek hahyl") and "Gas the Jews".
In the sentencing Monday, Sheriff Derek O'Carroll rejected Meechan's explanation that the video was made as a private joke and pointed out that he had "not taken any steps to prevent the video being shared publicly".
O'Carroll found Meechan guilty of sharing what he called "grossly offensive, anti-Semitic and racist" content.
Fining Meechan £800, the sheriff told him: "The centrepiece of your video consists of you repeating the phrase "Gas the Jews" over and over again as a command to a dog which then reacts". He says it doesn't set a precedent, it does set a precedent, a really, really risky precedent has been set for people to say things, their context to be completely ignored and then they can be convicted for it.
Meechan was supported in court by by Tommy Robinson, former leader of far-right group the English Defence League (EDL).
He said: "Honestly, I don't hate anyone, the whole goal of this was just to annoy my girlfriend".
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Meechan, who posts on YouTube under the handle Count Dankula, uploaded the video to the platform in April 2016, where it was viewed three million times, Sky News reports. The man responsible said he had intended the video to be a joke.
The sheriff who heard the case said that although freedom of speech is important, the law "necessarily" has to limit it to some extent.
"You don't get to decide the context, other people don't get to decide the context, the court decides".
He said his client was concerned about the impact his conviction may have on comedians such as John Cleese, Frankie Boyle and Ricky Gervais if they were to come to Scotland due to the material referenced in some of their acts.
"If you don't believe in a person's right to say things that you might find "grossly offensive", then you don't believe in Freedom of Speech".