Ex-UKIP man and marine Ian Couch in pig’s head insult to Cambridge mosque
A former counter terrorism operative and UKIP candidate sent a “grossly offensive” message to a Cambridge mosque and posted anti-Islamic material on his Facebook page.
Now the 54-year-old, of Woollards Way, Great Shelford, faces a jail sentence after he admitted emailing the Omar Faruque mosque and posting a photograph of the pig’s head on Facebook accompanied by religious slurs.
Joe Bird, prosecuting, explained that on the evening of August 20 last year, Couch, who was then drunk, sent the email to the mosque after becoming angry at a news report on the beheading of US journalist James Foley.
Addressing Couch – who stood as a South Cambs District Council candidate in May last year – Mr Bird said attempting to justify his email as “freedom of expression” was just an excuse for unacceptable behaviour.
He added: “You knew full well when you sent that email that it’s something they would find grossly offensive.”
Taxi driver Abdul Muquith, who volunteers as a receptionist at the Kirkwood Road mosque and received the email, told the court it left him “disgusted and shocked”.
He said: “I was scared and very upset because we are quite a close-knit community in that area and we are responsible for the wellbeing and safety our congregation.
“I was shocked because we’d never received any emails in the past in that kind of language – we were scared that something might happen in the morning when he arrived.”
Mr Muquith then discovered the shocking contents of Couch’s Facebook page – which has a public privacy setting – when he looked him up after receiving the initial email.
He continued: “There were pictures and a lot of language which was against Muslims and Islam and a lot of statements about putting pigs’ heads in the mosques.
“There are no words to describe how shocking it was for me to see things like that on a Facebook page.”
Speaking in court, Couch confessed he had been drinking heavily when he sent the email and that he was angry and emotional after watching the news and an online video of four women being killed by militants.
He also argued it was a coincidence the head was found in his fridge upon his arrest, claiming he had got it as a treat for his dogs despite it being the first time he had ever bought a head rather than just ears or trotters.
However, lead magistrate Marisa Johnson rejected any freedom of expression defence and slammed Couch for attempting to defend the “indefensible”.
She said: “We find the email was offensive – we are offended by it and it had the intention of causing offence and distress to the people who received it.
“You are in a very serious situation, particularly at these volatile and serious times.
“We consider it a hate crime and are looking at a custodial sentence with a six-week starting point.
“We can’t tolerate this kind of behaviour from anyone which is likely to make matters worse for people in the community.”
Commenting on the conviction, Paul Bullen, UKIP group leader for Cambridgeshire County Council, confirmed Couch was no longer a member of the party.
He told the News: “When the party became aware that he was anti-Islamic and that he didn’t have our standards we asked him to leave, which he did immediately.
“I believe his conviction is correct and his actions are damaging to the community – you can’t judge a religion on a few fanatics.”