(Not satire – it’s the law!)
As I’ve said before, words are important. Really important. But is it only me that thinks we shouldn’t go to jail for them?
When I was a nipper, many years ago, I visited London with my dad and my brother and he took us to Speaker’s Corner.
“Britain’s one of the only countries in the world you can stand up and say what you like without fear of breaking the law,” he told us.
Well, OK, he may not have been entirely right about that but you get my point.
As most people have heard, last month, a man called Barry Thew was jailed for a total of eight months for wearing a home-made T-shirt containing an offensive anti-police sentiment in the immediate aftermath of the tragic deaths of PCs Fiona Bone and Nicola Hughes.
He was found guilty of “displaying writing or other visible representation with intention of causing harassment, alarm or distress”. For this particular crime, he was given 4 months in prison (he received the other 4 months for another matter).
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not supporting this man or his sentiments. But I am supporting his right to express them – so long as he is expressing them in words, not actions.
I just can’t accept that people are going to prison for their use of words – however offensive they might be.
In Barry Thew’s case, it’s even more problematic because he actually made and was wearing the T shirt before the terrible and tragic deaths of the two brave police women – so his sentiments in fact had nothing to do with them at all.
In fact, his son died 3 years ago while in police custody and – rightly or wrongly – he blames the police for his son’s death. That’s why he was wearing the T shirt.
There is a real problem with sending people to prison for expressing offensive sentiments before the event that causes them to be offensive has happened.
For example, if someone can go to prison for saying this:
Does that mean if I say this ……
Kill a blogger 4 fun! One less blogger. Perfect Justice.
…… and at some time in the future a blogger tragically dies, I too am liable to go to prison?
I think as UK law presently stands, the answer must – bizarrely – be yes.
Tell me I’m wrong and insult me as much as you like, but please – respectful comments only about the murdered police officers. Thanks.
Related articles by Tom Pride on this subject:
War is Peace. Freedom is Slavery. Tripling Fees Makes Them More Affordable. Destroying the NHS Will Save It.
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