Three far-right activists who staged a mock beheading in protest of plans to build a mosque have been found guilty, convicted and fined of a criminal offence under Victoria's racial vilification laws.
United Patriots Front members Blair Cottrell, 27, Christopher Shortis, 46, and Neil Erikson, 32, were all found guilty by a magistrate of inciting contempt, revulsion or ridicule of Muslims in a video made in protest of plans to build a mosque in Bendigo.
Magistrate John Hardy found the men guilty on Tuesday after a two-day contested hearing in Melbourne Magistrates Court.
The trio are the first people convicted under Victoria's Racial and Religious Tolerance Act.
The charge carries a penalty of up to six months in jail or fines of more than $9000.
After finding the men guilty, Mr Hardy struck out charges of wilful damage and defacing property, at the request of prosecutors.
A charge of offensive behaviour in public was earlier withdrawn by prosecutors.
The magistrate then imposed convictions on Cottrell, Shortis and Erikson and fined them each $2000 each.
Shortis confirmed outside court he planned to appeal against the magistrate's decision to a higher court.
He told the court he had political aspirations.
Cottrell and Erikson confirmed their appeals would be heard in October in the County Court.
Cottrell said the magistrate's decision set a "dangerous precedent" for Victorians, and believed the state was a step closer to introducing blasphemy laws.
In court, Mr Hardy told the trio they "crossed the line" in staging a mock beheading outside the City of Bendigo offices on October 4, 2015, in protest against building a mosque in Bendigo.
"We live in a community that is extraordinarily diverse and each person is entitled to live their life without being subjected to wrongful conduct by others," the magistrate said.
In the video, Cottrell speaks to camera about the mosque plans and directs Shortis – wearing a Middle Eastern-style head covering, and shouting "Allahu Akbar" – and Erikson to decapitate a dummy with a toy plastic sword.
When the dummy is beheaded, red liquid spills onto the footpath.
Mr Hardy found the video – which was posted onto the UPF's Facebook page – was designed to incite contempt and ridicule of Muslims, and encourage other "like-minded people" to attend a rally opposing the mosque.
The date of the rally was broadcast on the video.