A TEENAGE soldier who posted a 'despicable', racist message celebrating the death of a three-year-old has been spared jail.
Warren Butler, 19, based in Aldershot, made the comment about Mikaeel Kular, who was found dead in Fife, Scotland, in January, two days after going missing.
However now he faces possibly being dismissed from the army along with a suspended prison sentence.
A member of the 1st Grenadier Guards, stationed at Lille Barracks, Butler admitted one charge of improper use of a communications network at Aldershot Magistrates' Court on February 13.
Warren's online comment, made on January 18, expressed his glee at Mikaeel's death due to his ethnicity. Mikaeel's mother Rosdeep Kular, 33, has been charged with her son's murder.
Butler's sentencing was adjourned to allow an all-options report to be completed, and he appeared for sentencing at Basingstoke Magistrates' Court on Tuesday (March 11).
The court heard he posted the message at around midday while he was alone in his room, after having had drank 10 bottles of Stella lager.
Serena Edwards, prosecuting for the CPS, said Butler, originally from Ferguson Road in Carlisle, Cumbria, had been brought up with racist views as some of his family members were 'actively racist'. She said Butler had shown no remorse in his interview with police, saying his only regret was that his family had been threatened as a result.
Fabienne Macey, defending, said the post had been a 'terrible mistake' and that Butler hoped to change.
She said he had made the comment after reading posts online by the English Defence League and British National Party and was 'wound up'.
"It shows his naivety and immaturity not to think people would be so astounded that they would share it," she said.
Butler was said to be of previous good character and had deactivated his Facebook account soon after making the comment.
Miss Macey told the court that Butler was likely to be dismissed from the army if he received an immediate custodial sentence or more than 100 hours of unpaid work.
District Judge Philip Gillibrand said, however, that he would not be swayed by what the army would tolerate and would hand down the sentence he though was right.
He sentenced Butler to 16 weeks imprisonment, suspended for 18 months, with a 12-month community order and 250 hours of unpaid work. He must also pay costs of £85 and a victim surcharge of £80.
Describing the comments as 'completely unjustified, cruel and disrespectful', the judge said: "Everybody has said what a despicable thing this was to do and I share wholeheartedly in those comments.
"Unless we have respect for other people then we are nothing."
Kate Brown, Chief Crown Prosecutor for the Crown Prosecution Service Wessex said: “Warren Butler, a Grenadier Guardsman based in Aldershot thought that he could use social media to post a grossly offensive message and not face consequences.
“On 18 January, he posted on his Facebook account a racist comment, which callously referred to three- year-old Mikaeel Kular, who was found dead in Scotland the day before. The disappearance and the tragic discovery of the body of the little boy shocked many of us and it is therefore very difficult to understand how a 19-year-old is capable of making such cruel and disrespectful comments.
“Basingstoke Magistrates’ Court heard today how, as soon as Butler posted this message he and his family received death threats. The chain of command of Butler’s regiment was alerted and advised him to contact Hampshire Constabulary.
“Whilst he was interviewed by Hampshire Constabulary Officers, Butler explained how he shared extreme right wing ideology and that being racist was his opinion and that he did not think that his comments were bad. He also said to them that he only regretted the backlash it caused to his family.
“By posting his comment he made his family a target of death threats. He has now committed a criminal offence. By pleading guilty he has admitted full responsibility of his act.
“The CPS takes very seriously offences committed via social media. The DPP’s guidance on cases involving social media makes clear that the threshold for prosecuting these cases is high and must be balanced against the right to freedom of speech. However, where there is sufficient evidence for this threshold to be met, and it is in the public interest to do so, we will vigorously prosecute.”