disrespect | 

Celtic fan faces jail for posting 'grossly offensive' tweet about Captain Tom's death

Kelly, who was reprimanded by the sheriff for laughing as he sat in the dock, did not give any evidence during the trial

Joseph Kelly was accused of sending a ‘grossly offensive’ tweet about Captain Sir Tom Moore just the veteran’s death (Joe Giddens/PA)

Neil Fetherstonhaugh

A Celtic fan is facing six months in jail after he was convicted of posting a “grossly offensive” tweet over the death of NHS fundraising hero Captain Sir Tom Moore.

Joseph Kelly (36), from Glasgow, admitted posting “the only good Brit soldier is a deed (sic) one, burn auld fella, buuuuurn” on his Twitter account although he denied breaching communication laws.

Captain Sir Tom, who helped raise more than £32 million for the NHS during the first national lockdown, died from coronavirus and pneumonia last February aged 100.

He won the nation's hearts by walking 100 laps of his garden in Bedfordshire during the first lockdown, raising money for NHS Charities Together.

The Queen knighted him during a special ceremony in the grounds of Windsor Castle in 2020

Kelly, who was reprimanded by the sheriff for laughing as he sat in the dock, did not give any evidence during the trial.

Joseph Kelly was found guilty of sending a ‘grossly offensive’ Tweet about Captain Sir Tom Moore (Joe Giddens/PA)

He now faces up to six months in jail or a fine of up to £5,000, or both after he was found guilty by Sheriff Adrian Cottam after a trial at Lanark Sheriff Court in Scotland.

Janet Hunter Jess, a member of the public who saw the tweet, told the court she was hurt at reading the message.

The 72-year-old, whose family served in the armed forces, said: "To see someone wishing British soldiers dead, it still hurts me. It still hurts me that anybody would disrespect someone that had given their life for the country."

The hearing was told how Kelly, of Castlemilk, told a neighbour that he regretted posting the tweet which had been condemned by social media users.

Luzier Jeffrey (51) said she was shocked when she saw the tweet.

“The gentleman in question had done so much to raise awareness and funds for the NHS in England,” she said.

“I spoke to Joseph about it and, I can't remember word for word, but he said 'I have done a lot of stupid things in my time but that is one of the worst' and he said he regretted it and it was just a spur of the moment thing.

“He also told me he would take it back straight away, which he did, but unfortunately somebody had seen it.”

The charge under the Communications Act alleged that Mr Kelly made a public social media post that was "grossly offensive or of an indecent, obscene or menacing character, and that did utter offensive remarks about Captain Sir Tom Moore, now deceased".

Prosecutors who described the tweet as “grossly offensive”, insisted Kelly had broken communication laws.

Depute fiscal Liam Haggart said: “Captain Tom Moore had become something of a celebrity owing to his age and work he had done to support the NHS.

“If Mr Kelly had been standing at Lanark Cross and had begun shouting these comments then there would have been little difficulty in breach of the peace charges being brought against him.

The veteran received a knighthood from the Queen. (Chris Jackson/PA)

“Freedom of expression does not justify him making this post. This was a tweet designed to be offensive and, in my view, grossly offensive which takes it beyond the necessary threshold.”

Cameron Smith, defending advocate, argued that the tweet did not cross the threshold into criminality.

“It is unpleasant and it is unsavoury but it is not grossly offensive,” he said. “That is a very high bar and I say the Crown have not got over that bar in these proceedings.”

Sheriff Cottam said: “I'm of the view that the focus of the tweet was not on the British army or soldiers but on the man pictured, Captain Sir Tom Moore, who had become a national hero during the early stages of the pandemic.

“The timing of the tweet makes the comment not only offensive, but grossly offensive and what the accused chose to write can only be described as that.

“The prosecution does interfere with freedom of expression but it is a necessary interference."

Sentence was deferred on Kelly until March for reports and his bail was continued.

Last month, a memorial erected in Derbyshire, UK, just days after the death of the NHS hero was vandalised with graffiti reading ‘IRA’, which caused outrage among locals.

Ulster Unionist Party leader Mike Nesbitt condemned the graffiti attack, tweeting: “This needs [to be] condemned by every political party that opposes sectarianism, stupidity and a failure to demonstrate respect.”

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