Man jailed for wearing anti-police T-shirt on day PCs killed
PUBLISHED October 11, 2012
Barry Thew "paraded" through his home town in a white T-shirt bearing the handwritten slogans "One less pig; perfect justice" and "Killacopforfun.com haha".
He made the statement just three hours after PCs Nicola Hughes and Fiona Bone died in a gun and grenade attack less than 20 miles away on the other side of Manchester.
Police welcomed the prison term handed down to Thew, a serial offender who was given a further four months for breaching the terms of an earlier sentence.
Inspector Bryn Williams, of the Radcliffe Neighbourhood Policing Team, said: "While officers on the ground were just learning of and trying to come to terms with the devastating news that two colleagues had been murdered, Thew thought nothing of going out in public with a T-shirt daubed with appalling handwritten comments on.
"Thankfully the overwhelming response from the public - who have inundated us with messages of support and condolence - prove that Thew is the exception and not the rule and our communities were right behind us at our darkest hour.
"To mock or joke about the tragic events of that morning is morally reprehensible and Thew has rightly been convicted and sentenced for his actions."
But civil liberties campaigners said merely wearing an offensive T-shirt should not be an imprisonable offence, and pointed out that it followed similarly tough sentences given to internet users who made tasteless comments, rather than threats, on Facebook and Twitter.
Peter Tatchell, who is campaigning for reform of public order offences, said: "Barry Thew's t-shirt was offensive but in a free society the public should have the right to criticise - and even insult - the police. His four month jail sentence is disproportionate. No one should be jailed for a mere insult.
"Mr Thew sounds an unpleasant character, with a long criminal history. It was insensitive and distressing for him to wear his anti-police t-shirt on that day. I empathise with the loved ones of the officers who were killed. However, four months in prison is excessive for a few poisonous words.
"The price of free speech is that we sometimes have to put up with views we find offensive."
Minshull Street Crown Court heard that Thew was arrested at 2.15pm on September 18th as he walked through the streets of Radcliffe, Greater Manchester, while wearing the Reebok T-shirt on which the anti-police slogans had been daubed in black pen.
He had been spotted by members of the public who had only just heard about the killing of the female officers on an estate in Mottram, with one witness telling police: "I just caught sight out of his shirt out of the corner of my eye. I literally have no words to describe what I thought of it."
But Thew, 39, told police: "I'm not bothered."
He claimed he had been wearing the T-shirt in response to the death of a policeman who was accidentally shot dead in a training exercise in 2008.
Thew later admitted displaying or writing on offensive message with intention of causing harassment, alarm or distress.
The court heard he had 77 previous convictions dating back to 1983 and was in breach of a suspended jail term for cultivating cannabis.
His barrister said Thew had a grudge against the police because he partly blamed them for the death of his young son.
Judge Peter Lakin sentenced him to four months in jail for the public order offence, and another four months for the breach of the earlier sentence.
The judge told him: "On September 18 of this year two young, female police officers going lawfully about their duties were tragically murdered in the most appalling of set of circumstances.
"Their deaths have left their families distressed and have caused enormous upset to every level of the police and to the general public at large.
"Your response to the shocking events of that was to parade round in a T-shirt in the centre of Radcliffe which had on it the most disgusting slogans.
"Your mindless behaviour has added to the pain of everyone touched by the deaths of those young officers. You have shown no remorse - even when you were arrested your response was that you weren't bothered.
"Whatever thoughts you have about the police of whatever personal animosity towards them, gave you no excuse whatsoever to behave in the way that you did."