Four men who shocked onlookers by dumping a pig’s head in a mosque have been jailed.

Top (L-R) Andrew Warner, 31; Steven White, 28; Bottom (L-R) Travis Crabtree, 25; Thomas Ashton, 21

The four friends, who are all from Blackpool or Lytham-St-Annes, told the court that they saw the defilement as a “prank.” However, Thomas Ashton, 21, Andrew Warner, 31, Travis Crabtree, 25 and Steven White, 28, admitted religiously aggravated intentional harassment, alarm or distress after the stunt which occurred in May last year, just two days after the murder of Fusilier Lee Rigby.

Preston Court Court heard how the pals dumped a carrier bag containing the pig’s head in the car park of Blackpool Central Mosque in Lancashire, and bragged on Facebook that mosque users would be “fuming.”

A volunteer received a Facebook message that an unpleasant package had been left at the place or work. Clare Thomas, prosecuting, told the court: “Sticking of the bag was a pig’s ear and he realised it was attached to a pig’s head. He described himself as being totally shocked. It sent a shiver down his spine.

Blackpool Central Mosque

Blackpool Central Mosque

“Pigs and items relating to them are forbidden for Muslims to touch or have contact with. It’s presence at a place of worship was highly insulting. Parents and children had started to arrive at the mosque. Some of them saw the head and felt offended and angry.”

An imam at the mosque had pleaded for leniency for the men, requesting that they not be jailed, but Judge Graham Knowles QC said only a custodial sentence was appropriate and sentenced Ashton to ten months in prison, Warner, seven months, Crabtree, 14 months and White was given eight months.

Speaking during sentencing, Judge Knowles said: “People are and must be free to worship as they please and without this kind of foul attack on them and that which they hold sacred. Public order must be preserved. What you four did must be denounced”.