AN office worker who left a severed pig's head outside a Muslim place of worship on Boxing Day has been spared jail.
Liam Ferrar, 24, was sentenced to 12 weeks' imprisonment, suspended for a year, after a court heard he was disgusted by his actions and had written a letter of apology to his victims.
Ferrar, of Brook Road, Leicester, England pleaded guilty last month to causing religiously aggravated harassment by leaving the frozen pig's head on the steps of the city's Thurnby Lodge Community Centre.
Sentencing Ferrar at Leicester Magistrates' Court, District Judge John Temperley described the offence as being "to some extent planned, premeditated and targeted".
The district judge told Ferrar: "You were well aware of the significance of your actions.
"You knew that what you did would cause great distress, indeed that was your intention."
The court heard that Ferrar was under the influence of alcohol when he placed the pig's head - which had been stored in a freezer for several months - in an area where it could not be avoided by adults and children arriving for prayers.
Stressing that the offence had taken place against a background of protests at the community centre's use as a place-of-worship, District Judge Temperley added: "It is easy to imagine the shock, distress and disgust (those who discovered the pig's head) would have felt.
"The witnesses statements I have read bear testimony to the serious impact of your actions, but the harm you caused goes further.
"Others in the local community and beyond would also have been affected when news of this incident spread, prompting profound alarm, fear and insecurity.
"It should have been obvious that what you did was intimidatory and would only serve to enflame an already tense and volatile situation."
Suspending the 12-week prison term because of Ferrar's personal mitigation, including his previous good character, the district judge accepted that the defendant regularly gave his time and energy to local good causes.
District Judge Temperley told Ferrar, who was also ordered to complete 250 hours of unpaid community work and pay £85 (€98) in costs: "The character references I have read do you great credit.
"I also accept that you have demonstrated genuine remorse and regret for your actions. You co-operated with the police and pleaded guilty at the earliest opportunity."
Louise Cox, prosecuting, told the court a group calling itself Forgotten Estates had stepped up protests at the community centre last summer.
Defence solicitor Stephen Morris said the protest group, of which Ferrar was a member, aimed to highlight the lack of facilities in the Thurnby Lodge area.
Claiming that his client had chosen to distance himself from Forgotten Estates in September last year, Mr Morris said: "The behaviour by Mr Ferrar on this occasion is out of character - he is not somebody who displays racist tendencies."