A man urged people to burn down Grimsby’s mosque so the town could be put on the national map “big time”. Today, the dreadful comments, posted on Facebook, have been condemned by our mayor, who says: “This does not show the true face of North East Lincolnshire. The general public will be appalled by these comments.”
Steven Ballard was the second local man to be hauled before the courts in just two weeks for posting offensive comments about the mosque on the social networking site – and appeared just a day after a third man was remanded in custody charged with firebombing the Weelsby Road venue last month. Ballard, 27, of Churchill Way, Grimsby, admitted sending an offensive or menacing message on May 23.
Rebecca Dolby, prosecuting, told Grimsby magistrates that police searched an open group forum on Facebook linked to the Grimsby division of the English Defence League. Ballard posted a message at about 10pm following the murder of soldier Lee Rigby at Woolwich. It read: “Burn the mosque down the end of Legsby Avenue. That will tell the clowns in charge in this country that we ain’t taking this s*** and it will start a nationwide action going. Grimsby will be on the map big time then.”
But North East Lincolnshire Mayor Councillor Peggy Elliott told the Telegraph that she felt that far from sowing division, the recent petrol bomb attack on the mosque had brought the borough’s different communities closer together.
“The people who worship are family people, many of whom have lived for generations in Grimsby. They have businesses, they are part of our community, they pay their taxes, and to suggest doing something like this is unacceptable. When you put something like this on Facebook it goes worldwide and attracts people that will take it literally. It panders to extremists.
“The vast majority of ordinary residents do not want to see buildings burned down and people injured. They want to work and live their lives and bring up their families in a pleasant and harmonious community. The one good thing to have come out of all this is that the majority of people have gelled together in support of the Muslim community. I think, if anything, it has formed many friendships and made us stronger.
“Muslim people are allowed to practise their faith, just like we are all allowed to practise our faith, or no faith. We are a small world and people of different faiths and cultures need to live in harmony.”
Magistrates heard that Ballard was traced by police and admitted making comments about the soldier being killed. He admitted they were “childish and pathetic”. Nick Furman, mitigating, said Ballard accepted that the comments he posted after the events in London were wrong. They were made to people he regularly interacted with and were not designed to be seen by wider groups of people.
The comments seemed to have racist connotations and were made in a moment of “upset and anger” but Ballard claimed he was not a racist. He had no previous convictions and was of “absolutely good character”. “It was a foolish thing to do, which he thoroughly regrets,” said Mr Furman. “In the current climate, there’s a degree of seriousness to what he did. It’s something he bitterly regrets.”
Sentence was adjourned for reports and Ballard was allowed unconditional bail. He had previously had a bail condition of not using any social networking site but this was removed.