A man who filmed a pet dog giving Nazi salutes before posting the footage online has been fined £800.
Mark Meechan, 30, recorded his partner’s pug responding to statements such as “gas the Jews” and “sieg heil” by raising its paw before posting the footage on YouTube in April 2016.
He was found guilty of posting material that was “grossly offensive” and “anti-Semitic and racist in nature” in breach of the Communications Act, in an offence aggravated by religious prejudice, following a trial at Airdrie Sheriff Court.
Meechan had claimed he made the video as a joke to annoy his partner and raised issues about freedom of speech.
Speaking outside the court, he said that the decision sets a dangerous precedent.
Dozens of supporters of Meechan, including former English Defence League leader Tommy Robinson, were at Airdrie Sheriff Court for the court hearing on Monday.
Sentencing Meechan, Sheriff Derek O’Carroll said the video was grossly offensive and that his girlfriend did not even subscribe to the video channel he posted it on.
He said: “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.
“Sometimes the phrase is ‘You want to gas the Jews’. You recite ‘gas the Jews’ in a variety of dramatic ways. ‘Gas the Jews’ in one form or another is repeated by you 23 times within a few minutes.
“You use the command ‘sieg heil’, having trained the dog to raise its paw in response and the video shows a clip of a Nuremberg rally and a flashing image of Hitler with strident music.
“You say the video was only intended as a joke to upset your girlfriend, whose dog you used, and nothing more.
“On the whole evidence, including your own, applying the law as made by Parliament and interpreted by the most senior courts in this land, I found it proved that the video you posted, using a public communications network, was grossly offensive and contained menacing, anti-Semitic and racist material.
“You deliberately chose the Holocaust as the theme of the video. You purposely used the command ‘gas the Jews’ as the centrepiece of what you called the entire joke, surrounding the ‘gas the Jews’ centrepiece with Nazi imagery and the seig heil command so there could be no doubt what historical events you were referring to.”
He added that while the right to freedom of expression is very important, “in all modern democratic countries the law necessarily places some limits on that right”.
Meechan’s defence agent Ross Brown said his client was a “tolerant and liberal” man.
He said: “His difficulty, it seems, was that he was someone who enjoyed shock humour, both giving and receiving it, and went about his life under the impression that he lived in a jurisdiction which permitted its citizens the right to freely express themselves.”
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.
Speaking outside court after sentencing, Meechan said: “I’m going to appeal against it. He says it doesn’t set a precedent, it does set a precedent, a really, really dangerous precedent has been set for people to say things, their context to be completely ignored and then they can be convicted for it.
“You don’t get to decide the context of what you said, other people don’t get to, the court gets to, that’s dangerous.”
The 30-year-old said of the video: “It’s the juxtaposition of having an adorable animal react to something vulgar, that was the entire point of the joke.”