Three far-right nationalists who staged a mock beheading to protest against the building of a mosque in Bendigo in central Victoria have been found guilty of inciting serious contempt of Muslims. Blair Cottrell, Christopher Shortis and Neil Erikson have each been fined $2,000 after they filmed the beheading of a mannequin with a toy sword outside the Bendigo council offices in 2015.
The so-called ‘Bendigo Three’ argued that their video, which was released on the United Patriot’s Front Facebook page, was an act of free speech that focused on a specific tenet of Islam. But the magistrate disagreed, arguing the video was clearly intended to create serious contempt for or ridicule of Muslims.
“We live in a community which is inclusive and that each individual deserves the right to live their life peacefully,” Magistrate Peter Hardy said. “You more than just crossed a line.”
It is the first time a criminal charge under Victoria’s Racial and Religious Tolerance Act has been tested in court. Other charges relating to damaging public property were struck out. The three men have since told the media that they intend to appeal the decision, saying they “expected” the outcome.