Markus Meechan, also known as Count Dankula, has been fined £800 for a video of his dog giving Nazi salutes.
The video posted in April 2016 showed footage of Meechan’s girlfriend’s pug responding to anti-Semitic phrases and videos by performing the Nazi salute.
The Airdrie Sherriff Court ruled the video “grossly offensive” under Section 127 of the Offensive Communications Act 2003.
Markus says that this ruling was a “miscarriage of justice” adding that “it is a very very dark day in terms of freedom of speech and freedom of expression”.
Some have spoken out in support of Markus, including comedian Ricky Gervais who tweeted to say the ruling is unjust:
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.
— Ricky Gervais (@rickygervais) March 20, 2018
Since the ruling, Markus has created a GoFundMe page to raise money for legal fees as he aims to appeal the ruling. Within 24 hours of launching the page he has exceeded his goal of £100,000 – a figure he received in advice from his lawyer.
According to the GoFundMe page, Markus intends to contest the ruling to stop the courts from using his case as precedent to “convict other people over the things they say and the jokes they make”. He suggests this case could set a standard where courts will be able to “willfully ignore the context and intent of a person’s words and actions in order to punish them and brand them as criminals”.
He also makes assurances that he will be “100% transparent with these funds” and that “all bills in regards to the case will be made publicly available”.
The non-profit organisation Index on Censorship said it “condemns the decision” to convict Markus, on the basis that free speech “must include defending the rights of those who say things we find shocking or offensive”.
However, while the United Kingdom grants the right to freedom of expression, freedom of speech is not a legal right, and the law surrounding freedom of speech in the UK specifically prevents people from using “hate speech”.