In the Media

Former soldier jailed for hanging severed pig's head on mosque gate

PUBLISHED August 31, 2012

Simon Parkes, 45, was left angered at a television news report on Armistice Day in 2010, which showed Muslim extremists burning poppies during a demonstration in London.

Two nights later Parkes, and an accomplice who has not been brought before the court, arrived outside Masjidul Falah mosque in Cheltenham, Glos, with hoods over their faces.

They tied the pig's head to the gates of the mosque - a deeply offensive gesture.

Parkes, who served in Northern Ireland and the Falklands during the late 1980s and early 1990s before leaving the army to care for his sick mother, also daubed an insult on the walls in red paint.

The former care home worker, posted a picture of himself on Facebook a few weeks later, in which he appeared masked outside the mosque immediately after the incident. It carried the title: ''Revenge of the infidel.''

Yesterday Parkes, of Bishop's Cleeve near Cheltenham, was jailed at Gloucester Crown Court for four months for racially aggravated criminal damage and harassment.

Sentencing him, judge Jamie Tabor, QC, told the court: ''Freedom of expression is a much-cherished privilege but it carries with it responsibilities, the principal responsibility being to act within the law.

''Not only soldiers but the majority of citizens of this country were offended (by the poppy-burning protests). They did not react the way you did.

''You did this while masked which demonstrates not only pre-meditation but allowed yourself to be photographed at the scene."

The judge added: "It demonstrates that you were revelling in what you did. You enjoyed what you did and wanted others to know about it.

"There can be no other reason why you posted it on Facebook.''

The court had heard that he suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder, which included experiencing vivid flashbacks of children who were killed while he was on tours of duty.

He had also become a ''widower'' upon quitting service in 1993 due to his dedication to the job.

Earlier Lisa Hennessy, prosecuting, told the court that the alarm was raised on November 13 2010.

Worshippers at the mosque had arrived to find a ''totally offensive'' pig's head tied to the gates with shoelaces with the name Allah (Arabic for God) inscribed on it.

The court was told worshippers were horrified by Parkes' actions.

She told the court ''The pig is an animal that is unclean. Whoever did it was trying to get a reaction.''

CCTV footage seized by police showed a hire car, recently loaned to Parkes, arriving at the scene.

Police later accessed Parkes' Facebook page to find the picture of him outside the mosque, posted three weeks after the incident.

Parkes, who has previous convictions, the most recent being for battery last year, made full admissions to police when he was arrested.

Stephen Thomas, defending, said his client was ''outraged'' at seeing the poppy burned.

''What he realises now is that his behaviour was beyond freedom of expression. He accepts what he did was a rash, foolish and misguided venture,'' Mr Thomas said.

Parkes, wearing a grey suit and dark shirt, pleaded guilty to racially aggravated criminal damage and a harassment charge at an earlier hearing.

The court heard he was assessed for post-traumatic stress disorder while still a serving soldier but was told to ''get on with his job''.

Mr Thomas said: ''He has flashbacks. He was called to an incident where a bomb was exploded and found two dead bodies, one of a little girl. He was deeply affected by that. He has been a widower since he left the army. He put his life and soul into that job.

''I feel he had some form of post-traumatic stress and probably wasn't thinking clearly. He has fully admitted his guilt and shown his remorse.''

The judge said unemployed Parkes, who told the court he was due to be taken on as a plasterer next week, would serve half of his four-month sentence.

Speaking after the case, Inspector Tim Waterhouse from Gloucestershire police said: ''I hope this sentence sends out a clear message that this sort of appalling criminal behaviour will not be tolerated.

''Although this disturbing incident happened nearly two years ago, a painstaking and difficult inquiry has led to today's sentencing.

''The message is clear that we will not stop in our determination to target criminals and keep people and our communities safe from harm.''