London: In an unusual case in the UK, an online troll was sentenced to 180 hours of unpaid work and a 12-month community order for posting "grossly offensive" anti-Muslim comments on a police Facebook page.
Stephen Bennett, 39, made inflammatory remarks on Greater Manchester Police's Facebook page, in response to an appeal for information in a sex case with an Asian suspect.
One comment he made concerned Asian women, another was likely to be offensive to Muslims, the Manchester Evening News reported.
Bennett, of Wythenshawe, also wrote, "Don't come over to this country and treat it like your own. Britain first."
He made the comments despite his mother-in-law and sister-in-law being Muslims, his lawyer told the court.
The response sparked outrage from Facebook users who feared his remarks would set people against each other.
When Bennett was arrested by officers, he said, "Is this about that Muslim thing on Facebook? I'm getting locked up for sticking up for my own country."
Bennett later admitted an offence under the Malicious Communications Act.
His Manchester Crown Court sentencing hearing was told that he was a dad-of-seven who was finding it "difficult to cope" at the time because of the loss of his job, but was now back to work as a cleaner.
His lawyer added that his mother-in-law and sister-in-law were Muslims and that he was not racist. But web users who read his posts felt his remarks would fuel tensions.
Sentencing, Recorder Andrew Long told Bennett he found it "impossible to believe" he would have posted the "grossly offensive" comments unless he was "at least a sympathiser" with those who expressed such views.
The judge said "running the risk of stirring up racial hatred in the present climate", was "very serious" describing it as "conduct capable of playing into the hands of the enemies of this country".
Sentencing him to a 12-month community order, with 180 hours' unpaid work, the judge said, "Your remarks damaged the community in which you live, and it?s the community that you must repay."