Ex-soldier jailed for trying to blow up mosque in race-hate attack
- Ex-soldier admitted he had been member of English Defence League
- He and an accomplice ran a pipe into mosque from nearby gas meter
- Claimed they were acting in revenge attack after Muslim extremists burned poppies on Armistice Day
By Nadia Gilani
Guilty: Simon Beech, pictured has been jailed for trying to blow up a mosque
An ex-soldier who tried to blow up a mosque was jailed for
ten years today.
Private Simon Beech, who served in the 2nd Battalion of the Yorkshire Regiment, was convicted of arson alongside Garreth Foster who was also given a 10-year sentence.
Stoke-on-Trent Crown Court heard that the pair set fire to the mosque, in Regent Road in the Hanley area of the city, in a revenge attack after Muslim extremists burned poppies on Armistice Day.
The former serviceman and 29-year-old Foster, of Stoke-on-Trent, both denied running a pipe into the building from a nearby gas meter in a bid to spark an explosion on December 3 last year.
The court was told the mosque had been left secure at 10pm on December 2 last year.
But firefighters were called at 6.30am the next day after a CCTV operator saw smoke coming from the first floor. The blaze caused £50,000 damage.
The Brigade managed to put out the fire and a policeman who discovered the pipe followed it to the property 163 yards next door.
During the four-day trial, Beech, 23, told the court he had been a member of the English Defence League and the British National Party but insisted he was not a racist and said he did not believe his views to be extreme.
Hate: Foster pictured outside court during the trial was also jailed for 10 years
A jury of five men and seven women
took just over five hours to convict the men.
The panel had heard that before the fire Beech had written on a Facebook page: 'The time has come. They burn our poppies, we burn their place. Burn the lot of them out.'
Prosecutor Paul Spratt told the court: 'He found persons through Facebook who had like-minded views.
'One observation he plainly agreed with was 'Nuke All Mosques'.
When passing sentence, Judge Mark Eades said the arson had been 'thought through to a considerable degree'.
He said: 'The whole scheme involved a degree of pre-planning and preparation.
'This was a profoundly disturbing case. A considerable amount of planning and forethought went into this arson.'
The judge said he did not accept that the fire was lit to avenge Muslim extremists but rather was designed 'to get at Muslims in general'.
He added: 'Your purpose can only have been to destabilise community relationships.'
Blaze: The arson attack caused £50,000 of damage to the mosque, pictured the day of the fire
Chief Inspector Jeff Moore, commander of Stoke-on-Trent
Central Local Policing Team, said: 'Today's sentences are to be welcomed and
send out a clear message - this kind of criminal act will not be tolerated in
'Following the fire, numerous meetings were held between local neighbourhood police officers and members of the community to keep them informed of our investigation and to address their concerns.
'It was comforting to see that in such difficult and upsetting circumstances the community pulled together and that is still very much the case today.
'In fact, just a short time after the incident, local people gathered together for a community clean-up, which helped to boost spirits.'
'Although this was a serious incident, it was an isolated one. It is not a reflection of the good community relationships we have within Stoke-on-Trent.'