Far-right extremist Blair Cottrell has lost his appeal against a conviction for religious vilification, with a judge finding a 2017 stunt in which he beheaded a dummy to protest against a proposed mosque in Victoria was “calculated to promote rank and demeaning stereotyping of Muslims”.
On Thursday the chief judge of the Victorian county court, Peter Kidd, dismissed the former United Patriots Front leader’s appeal against the conviction, saying he did not believe that Cottrell had not intended to incite hatred, contempt and ridicule of Muslims with the stunt.
“I reject completely the many explanations advanced by the appellant that this was not directed to engendering extreme feelings about Muslims in general,” Kidd said in his judgement.
“His explanations smack of a manufactured post facto rationalisation and are lacking in credibility. I do not believe the appellant.”
Kidd said Cottrell’s argument that the stunt was “intended to be humorous” was “lacking in all credibility” and was “patently disingenuous”.
“I have concluded, beyond reasonable doubt, that it was the appellant’s intention to incite these extreme feelings against Muslims because of their religious beliefs,” Kidd found.
“That is, that the appellant intended that the strong feelings be stirred up in his target audience, towards Muslims, because of the religious beliefs of Muslims.”
Outside the court on Thursday, Cottrell told reporters he was broke.
“My bank account’s been closed down, my PayPal account has been closed down,” he said. “The fact that I’m at court now wearing a suit is a miracle.”
Cottrell was found guilty of inciting hatred, contempt and ridicule of Muslims after making a video beheading a dummy in protest of a Bendigo mosque in 2017.
Cottrell, Neil Erikson and Christopher Neil Shortis were convicted and fined over the beheading video, involving a dummy made of pillows and red liquid squirting from its head.
One of the group wore an imitation of a Muslim head covering while one or more shouted “Allahu Akbar”.
The video also showed the group chanting “Aussie, Aussie, Aussie” while carrying and driving around with flags.
Cottrell had his previous magistrates court conviction reinstated and he was fined $2,000 by the county court on Thursday.
During the case Cottrell’s lawyer, John Bolton, had argued his client had been protesting against local government and not Muslims. But Kidd said in his judgment that while the stunt was filmed outside the Bendigo council building it did not “cure the vilification intended”.
“The fact that [Cottrell] may have wanted to incite extreme feelings against Muslims [because of their religion] for a political purpose to attend a political rally, does not cure the vilification intended,” Kidd said in his judgement.
“That is, even if the ends were political, the means remain vilifying. Having a political end is not a defence to the charge. The prohibition does not provide such a justification or excuse. Finally, I do not accept the appellant’s bare denial in his evidence that he did not intend to stir up strong feelings. It does sit with the weight of all of the other evidence.”