Three Muslim men were sentenced at the Old Bailey on Friday for confronting and abusing members of the public in east London.
Jordan Horner, 20 from Walthamstow, Ricardo McFarlane, 36 of no fixed address, and a 22-year-old who can’t be named for legal reasons, pleaded guilty to assault, affray and public order offences at a hearing last September.
On Friday, Horner, McFarlane and the 22-year-old were sentenced to 17 months, 12 months and 24 weeks imprisonment respectively.
The three, who called themselves the ‘Muslim Patrol’, confronted, physically assaulted, and verbally abused members of the public whose behaviour didn’t agree with their ideologies, posting the videos of their actions onto YouTube.
Last December, Horner and the 22-year-old drove alongside a couple in Bethnal Green, shouting through a megaphone: “Let go of each other’s hands. This is a Muslim area!” They then proceeded to block the couples’ way until they let go of each other’s hands.
Then, two weeks later in Shoreditch, Horner and McFarlane attacked men drinking on the street, shouting, “Kill the non-believers.” Horner punched two of the men in the group, knocking one unconscious.
A few weeks later, on January 13, Horner and the 22-year-old harassed another couple who were walking in Stepney, accusing the woman of being a “slag” and telling the couple: “Remove yourselves now. Muslim Patrol. Move away from the mosque.”
Prosecutor Alex Chalk told the court on Friday that the case was “about religious vigilantism,” and that the group claimed different laws applied in “Muslim areas” around the borough.
“These men were members of a self-styled Muslim Patrol who threatened, intimidated and even assaulted members of the public who they perceived to be behaving in an un-Islamic manner.”
Judge Rebecca Poulet QC told the court: “My understanding is that Islam is a peaceful religion and this conduct was unfortunately anything but.”
Horner, who calls himself Jamal Uddin, had three previous convictions from 2010 and had apparently turned his life around when he converted to Islam.
Lisa Wilson, the lawyer representing Horner, said that her client “recognises that the offences are serious and recognises the custodial threshold is clearly passed” and that he has overcome problems, including drug addictions, which plagued him in earlier life.
She added: “Up until now he has been a young man who was immature and easily led. He now wants to work in the retail sector.”
Susan Meek, the lawyer for the 22-year-old, also said that her client had been changed since he converted to Islam, but carried out the offences because of the passion he had for his religion.
She said: “He said he didn’t think about the effect it would have on the victims, didn’t think about the consequences and he has said he feels very stupid.”
After reports about the group were made to the Metropolitan Police last September, witnesses were asked to come forward and help with the investigation.
The appeal was a part of the ‘No Place for Hate Forum’, a quarterly meeting of statutory and voluntary organisations from the borough to create coordinated responses to race and hate crimes.
Detective Chief Inspector Wendy Morgan from Tower Hamlets borough police said: “The appeal for the victim was significant in this investigation. Without it the victim would not have come forward and reported the attack. We are thankful for his courage and that of all the witnesses in this case who reported to police and who were then spared the ordeal of giving evidence.”
Tower Hamlets is one of the most diverse boroughs in London. Around 41 per cent of Tower Hamlets residents were born outside the UK, higher than the inner London average of 39 per cent.
The borough has the highest percentage of Muslim residents of any local authority in the country at 36.4 per cent.
Alan Green, Chair of Tower Hamlets ‘No Place for Hate’ and the Tower Hamlets Inter Faith Forum, said: “We continue to be proud of the vibrant diversity of Tower Hamlets. It is diversity to be celebrated but also needs to be defended against anyone who seeks to undermine it. These convictions are a result of agencies and community groups working together to protect that diversity.”