Shoreham father who admitted publishing anti-Muslim Facebook posts appears in court

A Shoreham father of two, who pleaded guilty to writing anti-Muslim Facebook posts, has had his sentencing adjourned as lawyers seek to establish how widely his messages were accessible to the public.

Lewes Crown Court
Lewes Crown Court

Nigel Pelham, of Freehold Street in Shoreham, was charged with eight counts of publishing threatening written material intending to stir up religious hatred.

He appeared for sentencing at Lewes Crown Court today (Friday, June 9).

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Michelle Nelson, prosecuting, said Pelham’s messages came to light when reported to police by his former partner, who said the comments had ‘shocked, angered and disgusted’ her.

The posts made references to Muslims in ‘the most graphic and offensive terms’, Ms Nelson said, and included statements such as ‘what this country needs is a bomb a mosque day’ and ‘we must burn mosques to the ground’.

Pelham was arrested on March 30, 2015.

In a police interview the same day, Ms Nelson said Pelham accepted what he had done and denied he was a racist.

He said he was a nationalist but not a member of the English Defence League, though Ms Nelson said he had posted videos of their rallies on his profile and said he had ‘sympathies if not support for’ their views.

Pelham’s profile was in the public domain, according to Ms Nelson, and so it was available to ‘more than his connections’.

Kate Richmond, defending, said Pelham had changed his privacy settings on Facebook, so that his profile was only available ‘for those people who actively searched for his name’.

Pelham told police he ‘genuinely believed his profile was private’, according to Ms Richmond.

During the time of the offences, which ranged from February 2015 to November 2015, Pelham’s life ‘was a blur’, she said.

The 50-year-old, who lives alone, ‘drank heavily on a daily basis’.

Unable to work and receiving benefits due to severe arthritis in his right leg, he was not socialising and was ‘a highly isolated individual’, the court heard.

He could barely remember posting the comments, which he did so in ‘a rant’ and ‘in a drunken stupor’, he had told police.

Pelham suffers from a borderline personality disorder and depression, she added.

There was no evidence he had offended since November 2015, and Ms Richmond said he had developed new interests, such as tending to a communal garden and becoming a two-way radio enthusiast,

“This is a man who has signficantly changed his lifestyle,” she said.

Judge Mark Dennis QC decided to adjourn the sentencing in order to gather more information about the availability of the posts.

He said it was important to establish whether the messages were ‘widely available’ or accessible only to people who searched for his name and his 900 to 1,000 Facebook friends.

“It is still serious,” he said. “But there is an important distinction.”

He confirmed that it was ‘plainly a custodial sentence’.

The case was adjourned to Friday, June 16, at Woolwich Crown Court and Pelham was released on conditional bail.