A member of a far-right group threatened to burn down mosques during a drunken rant in Halifax town centre, a court heard.
Andrew Ossitt, 40, from Newquay, came to Halifax on April 2, along with around 60 other English Defence League protesters. He was part of a group who came into town after a demonstration in Blackburn. They congregated outside the Courtyard pub, Wards End, Halifax.
Another man, Dennis Farrell, 26, of High Lees Road, Halifax, also appeared at Calderdale Magistrates’ Court. He will face trial on November 3 after denying two charges of using threatening words and racially or religiously aggravated harassment.
Scores of police went to the pub at 6pm and marched the group back to the train station.
Vanessa Schofield, prosecuting, said: “Officers’ attention was drawn to Andrew Ossitt. He was walking along, slightly behind the group. He raised both arms in the air and shouted, ‘These are our streets, Muslims off the streets’.”
Ossitt admitted using threatening words to cause harassment alarm or distress and a second charge of religiously aggravated harassment and was fined £100.
Mohammed Farooq, representing Ossitt, told the court although he joined in with chanting, he was not an instigator. He said: “At no point was it his intention to be part of any demonstration outside the pub. A few members began chanting, a few more joined in. Due to him being in drink at the time he began to chant ‘You burn the poppies, and we will burn the mosques’.
“Andrew Ossitt says at the time of making these remarks he did not feel he was going to cause anyone any alarm, harassment or distress. With hindsight he said had there been members of the Muslim community there, they would have done.”
His solicitor said Ossitt felt “aggrieved” at being prosecuted. “He has been singled out from that demonstration and used as a scapegoat here in court. He has said there should be 60 or so EDL stood next to him,” said Mr Farooq. He said Ossitt has not attended any English Defence League meetings since April.
As well as the £100 fine, chairwoman Anthea Atkinson told Ossitt to pay £85 costs and a £15 victim surcharge. “Our aim is to punish you, which we believe this will do. If this offence had not been religiously aggreviated, you would have paid £30 but it has been increased to reflect the religious aggreviation,” she said.