Mark Meechan went viral on YouTube after recording pet pooch Buddha responding to statements such as ‘gas the Jews’ by raising its paw.
A man who filmed a pet dog giving Nazi salutes before putting the footage on YouTube has been convicted of committing a hate crime.
Mark Meechan, 30, recorded his girlfriend’s pug, Buddha, responding to statements such as ‘gas the Jews’ and ‘Sieg Heil’ by raising its paw during the footage called “M8 Yur Dug’s a Nazi”.
But after complaints about the content, police were called in and he was arrested for allegedly committing a hate crime by uploading the footage on to the popular video sharing website in April 2016.
The original clip had been viewed more than three million times on YouTube.
Meechan, of Coatbridge, Lanarkshire, went on trial at Airdrie Sheriff Court where he denied any wrong doing. He insisted he made the video to annoy his girlfriend Suzanne Kelly, 29.
However, Sheriff Derek O’Carroll found him guilty of a charge under the Communications Act that he posted a video on social media and YouTube which was grossly offensive because it was ‘anti-semitic and racist in nature’ and was aggravated by religious prejudice.
Sheriff O’Carroll told the court he did not believe Meechan had made the video only to annoy his girlfriend and ruled it was anti-Semitic.
He also said he believed Meechan left video on YouTube to drive traffic to other material he had on there.
He added: “In my view it is a reasonable conclusion that the video is grossly offensive
“The description of the video as humourous is no magic wand.
“This court has taken the freedom of expression into consideration. But the right to freedom of expression also comes with responsibility.
“The accused is quite obviously an intelligent and articulate man.
“The accused knew that the material was offensive and knew why it was offensive. Despite that the accused made a video containing anti-Semitic content and he would have known it was grossly offensive to many Jewish people.”
Ross Brown, defending, said Meechan had only intended the video to be seen by a small group of friends and to annoy his girlfriend.
He said the material had been leaked and gone ‘viral’ but Police Scotland then wrongly pursued Meechan despite his later videos attempting to ‘set the record straight’.
He said: “The purpose was to annoy his girlfriend but there was no evidence that he intended to cause fear or alarm.
“His girlfriend testified that Mr Meechan had never made known to her any any anti-Semitic views whatsoever.
“The accused possesses both tolerant and liberal views.
“His girlfriend is in no doubt it was an example of his sense of humour.”
Mr Brown told the court it was wrong to focus on the phrase ‘gas the jews’ when it had been taken out of context of the whole video.
He said famous Jewish comedian David Baddiel had even voiced his support for Meechan and asked for him to walk free.
He added: “I can see that the video may not be to everyone’s taste. Others may be able to see the comedic or satirical element to it.
“The court should seek to acquit Mr Meechan for no other reason but to show it is 2018 and not 1984.”
Prosecutors had earlier asked for Meechan to be convicted and branded the video ‘an odious criminal act that was dressed up to look like a joke.’
The depute fiscal added: “He is a highly intelligent and articulate individual, we are not dealing with some callow youth who is inexperienced with what is going on in the world.
“The Crown contention is that the inclusion of the dog is an attempt to muddy the waters around him making, producing and posting the video.
“He says that he knows the context of the video but in a criminal court in Scotland he does not decide the context of anything, the court decides the context.”
Meechan had earlier told the court he only ever intended the video to be seen by a small group of friends on his YouTube account and insisted he still found it funny.
In the video the dog is seen perking up when it hears the statements and appears to lift its paw to the ‘Sieg Heil’ command in the video and is also filmed watching a rally led by Hitler at the 1936 Olympic Games in Berlin.
Former English Defence League leader Tommy Robinson attended court today in support of Meechan.
Robinson, real name Stephen Christopher Yaxley-Lennon, said the case was a “huge free speech issue.”
Sheriff O’Carroll deferred sentence on Meechan until April 23 for background reports and a restriction of liberty assessment.
Speaking outside court Meechan, a first offender, said: “We are going to appeal.
“There has been a miscarriage of justice.
“I think it is a very dark day in regards to freedom of speech and freedom of expression.
“The thing that was most worrying is that one of the primary things that has to be considered is things like context and intent and that was completely disregarded.
“For any comedians in Britain, be very, very worried about making jokes in future because the context and intent behind them apparently don’t matter any more.”
Tommy Robinson said: “This is the intelligence services, this is the government, this is the police cracking down and silencing free speech on people who are not even allowed to tell jokes.
“As we’re in Scotland, Frankie Boyle has always said far worse.”
Comedian Ricky Gervais took to Twitter to comment on the case after the verdict.
He said: “A man has been convicted in a UK court of making a joke that was deemed ‘grossly offensive’.
“If you don’t believe in a person’s right to say things that you might find ‘grossly offensive’, then you don’t believe in Freedom of Speech.
“I f***ing hate religion. I’ve criticised and ridiculed it for 40 years. Yet if my government tried to ban it or criminalise it, I would march alongside those poor fools and fight hard for their right to believe any f***ing stupid nonsense they chose.”