Teen arrested over anti-gay stickers may be charged with inciting hatred

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Prosecutors are considering whether to charge a teenager arrested over homophobic stickers in London’s East End with inciting anti-gay hatred.

If Mohammed Hasnath is charged with the offence, it will only be the second time the law has been used.

Mr Hasnath, 18, of Leamouth, was arrested last week and charged under Section 5 of the Public Order Act with displaying threatening, abusive or insulting material within the sight of a person likely to be caused harassment, alarm or distress.

He is accused of posting the offensive stickers at Bow Church DLR station and three other locations in the area in February.

After a local gay group complained that the charge was not strong enough, the Crown Prosecution Service said it was considering charging him with the offence of stirring up hatred on the grounds of sexual orientation, which comes under Section 29C (1) of Public Order Act 1986.

The new offence came into law in March last year and has only been used once, in the case of five men from Derbyshire who were accused of distributing an anti-gay leaflet.

While a conviction under Section 5 of the Public Order Act carries a maximum fine of £1,000, a Section 29C offence carries a maximum of six months imprisonment and/or an unlimited fine at the Crown Court.

Rainbow Hamlets, the gay group which complained about the charge, said it was “only one step up from bill-posting”.

Spokesman Jack Gilbert said: “To us, the stickers represented a deliberate attempt to undermine community cohesion in Tower Hamlets; they have had a deeply divisive effect upon the entire LGBT community and we do not believe that the CPS has given due consideration to the wider range of charging options available to them.”

A Crown Prosecution Service spokesperson said: “We can confirm that Mohammed Hasnath has been charged under section 5 of the Public Order Act 1986 in relation to an allegation that he posted offensive stickers at Bow Church DLR station. He will appear at City of Westminster magistrates court on June 1st.

“This case has now been referred to the CPS Special Crime and Counter Terrorism Division to consider whether a section 29C (1) of Public Order Act 1986 offence should be added. This offence is committed if a person uses threatening words or behaviour, or displays any written material which is threatening, if they intend thereby to stir up hatred on the grounds of sexual orientation.”