A trainee teacher has avoided a criminal record for sending antisemitic tweets to a Jewish journalist because he was on holiday abroad at the time, with the judge declaring that “the law prohibits me from punishing you”.
The verdict has led to renewed calls for the proposed online harms bill to be expedited through parliament in order to address Britain’s “antiquated laws” around hate crimes on the internet.
Sam Mole, 20, from Kettering, Northamptonshire, first tweeted at Dan Levene after the journalist tweeted his opposition to antisemitic chanting during matches at Stamford Bridge. Replying to a tweet from Levene which stated that six million Jews were killed in the Holocaust, Mole said: “And unfortunately one of them killed wasn’t you.”
However, a judge ruled that he could not be charged for sending racially or religiously aggravated malicious communications because Mole was on holiday in Australia when he sent the tweets. Consequently, the alleged offence falls outside the jurisdiction of UK law.
Speaking at Leicester magistrates court, the district judge, Nick Watson, said that while it was “clear the sender’s intention was for the person receiving them to be distressed” his hands were tied as Mole was in Australia at the time.
Watson added that “most would think sending them should be an offence, whether the sender is in this country or abroad” but that it was not in the court’s power to dictate public policy.
Mole was issued a three-year restraining order prohibiting him from directly or indirectly contacting Levene and posting messages about him on social media or encouraging others to do so. He was told that if he broke this order, he could go to prison.
Reacting to the verdict, Levene said: “The court was clear that Sam Mole’s actions were criminal but for a technicality, and this shows how victims of online hate crimes are not best served by the laws supposed to protect them.”
A spokesperson for the Campaign Against Antisemitism (CAA) said: “A defendant who broke the law and should have been punished has escaped justice. The online harms bill should be debated this year and enacted urgently.”
“It should also grant UK courts jurisdiction over offenders who are habitually resident in the UK, regardless of where the offence was committed, and over offenders who target victims who are habitually resident in the UK,” added the spokesperson, who confirmed that they would be raising the matter with the Teaching Regulation Agency.