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Wednesday, 26 November 2014

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Carlisle man jailed for burning Koran in city centre

A Carlisle man who set fire to the Koran in an act of “theatrical bigotry” has been jailed.

Andrew Ryan photo
Andrew Ryan

Andrew Ryan, 32, shouted abuse about Muslims as he set the book alight in the city centre in January.

Yesterday he was sent to prison for 70 days by district judge Gerald Chalk.

Ryan, of Summerhill, off London Road, Carlisle, claims to be a member of the English Defence League.

He arrived at Carlisle Magistrates’ Court flanked by flag-waving supporters.

Carrying the St George’s Cross, they were shouting “We love you England” and a variety of other nationalistic chants.

Some followed Ryan into the building and when his sentence was passed they stormed out, shouting abuse as they left the courtroom.

Ryan initially refused to go with the dock officers but before he was led way, Judge Chalk told him: “This is a case of theatrical bigotry, pre-planned by you.

“You stole the book and went out with the deliberate aim of causing the maximum publicity, and the maximum distress for people of the Islamic faith.

“People are entitled to protest in this country, it is a free country, but you are not entitled to do it in such a way as it will inflame.

“You are a man who has a history of violence and there is no alternative but custody.”

The court heard that Ryan has a number of previous convictions, including one for racial chanting at a football match.

He had pleaded guilty to racially/religiously aggravated intentional harassment and theft of the Koran from Carlisle library at an earlier hearing.

On that occasion he punched the air and shouted “no surrender” when the case was adjourned for pre-sentencing reports.

During police interview he admitted that he knew his actions would stir up religious hatred.

Yesterday, defence solicitor Margaret Payne said her client had “lost it” when he saw internet footage of Muslim extremists burning poppies.

His family has a military background and Ryan had been in the Army between the ages of 16 and 20, serving in Northern Ireland.

He took a copy of the Koran out of the library and made his way to the monument in English Street. Ryan’s former probation officer spotted what he was up to and tried to stop him, but he lit the book on his second attempt then threw it to the ground while shouting abuse about Muslims.

Mrs Payne told the court that Ryan only had issues with Muslim extremists. She said he now realised his actions were stupid and that he would not be repeating them.

Before the hearing the English Defence League Carlisle Division called on members to support Ryan. An offer was made to meet anyone travelling to the city at the railway station.

In anticipation of potential disorder, there was high police presence both inside and outside the court.

Officers had to move on Ryan’s baying supporters after he was sent down.

Inspector Paul Marshall, of Carlisle CID, said hate crime is taken seriously in Cumbria, even though such incidents are rare.

He explained: “When it does occur we investigate thoroughly so that offenders, and the local community now that hate crime will simply not be tolerated.”

Ryan was sentenced to 70 days for racially aggravated harassment and 30 days for theft, to run concurrently.

An order was also made for the destruction of his iPhone – which was used to post Facebook messages about how he had burnt the Koran.

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