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UK Man Jailed For 'Offensive Tweets' 922

Posted by timothy
from the hate-speech-join-the-crowd dept.
Motor writes "A UK judge has jailed a man for 56 days after he posted offensive comments on twitter about a footballer who had a heart attack during a game. He's also been thrown out of his university degree course weeks from graduating. His comments may have been offensive... but do they really justify a prison sentence and ruining his life?"
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UK Man Jailed For 'Offensive Tweets'

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  • WTF? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by bonch (38532) * on Tuesday March 27, 2012 @12:07PM (#39485371)

    Can you really be imprisoned in the UK for posting something racially insensitive? Just because he wrote something about a soccer player people liked doesn't mean he should be arrested and sent to jail. What kind of wacky police state does the UK have that this is acceptable legal policy? Don't the police there have better things to do than be made to chase down Twitter trolls?

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Gordonjcp (186804)

      If you live in the US, you can be arrested and jailed for *years*, because a policeman says he thought he smelt cannabis smoke coming from your house.

      Have a sense of perspective.

      • Re:WTF? (Score:5, Insightful)

        by serviscope_minor (664417) on Tuesday March 27, 2012 @12:20PM (#39485535) Journal

        If you live in the US...

        While it is likely that the GP was from the USA, the fact that the USA has idiotic laws doesn't have any bearing on the fact that the UK has idiotic laws.

        If you think the law isn't idiotic, then argue about its merits. Being worse elsewhere doesn't make a bad law good, because no matter how bad it gets in the UK, it will ALWAYS be worse somewhere else.

      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward

        If you live in the US, you can be arrested and jailed for *years*, because a policeman says he thought he smelt cannabis smoke coming from your house and entered your premise to find illegal drugs.

        FTFY

      • Re:WTF? (Score:5, Interesting)

        by Petron (1771156) on Tuesday March 27, 2012 @12:29PM (#39485723)
        Cite a case where a person was jailed for 2+ years with the only 'evidence' is the cop's memory of what he smelled...
  • Unexpected (Score:5, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday March 27, 2012 @12:10PM (#39485401)

    A UK judge has jailed a man for 56 days after he posted offensive comments on twitter about a footballer who had a heart attack during a game. He's also been thrown out of his university degree course weeks from graduating.

    I'm surprised that, being a judge, he hadn't already graduated. Seems a bit political by the university anyway.

  • by MetalliQaZ (539913) on Tuesday March 27, 2012 @12:12PM (#39485431)

    This took place in a country outside of the United States. They don't have the first amendment. If a person is guilty of "inciting racial hatred" and they admit to it, as is the case here, then they are punishable by local law.

    • by zarlino (985890) on Tuesday March 27, 2012 @12:17PM (#39485503) Homepage

      You should that countries other than the USoA have constitutions too. It might not be called "First Amendment" but there are free speech provisions in most countries.

      For example, check "Article 21" in the Italian Constitution.

      • by zarlino (985890)

        Oops, I meant "You should know"...

      • by MightyYar (622222)

        For example, check "Article 21" in the Italian Constitution.

        Oh my God, it's a bunch of jibberish! It uses the same letters as English, but they are all mixed up!

        Seriously, the provision here:

        (6) Publications, performances, and other exhibits offensive to public morality are prohibited. Measures of prevention and repression against violations are provided by law.

        Is what makes the rest of the article much less powerful. That's a pretty strong loophole. Is a racist tweet a "publication... offensive to public morality"? Most of Europe has anti-hate speech laws.

      • by rufty_tufty (888596) on Tuesday March 27, 2012 @12:39PM (#39485891) Homepage

        But freedom of speech has always had limitations.
        The classic of example of limits on freedom of speech being you do not have the freedom to yell "FIRE" in a crowded cinema just to laugh and watch as everyone panics and tramples over each other to escape.
        Now should inciting racial hatred be in the same class of action as one likely to cause injury or death to others? In most situations I would hope that sane rational people would be annoyed by such incitement but not take it further. If however you have a situation where you say it's okay to pick on people - particularly people deemed vulnerable by society - then at some point you have to draw the line and say it's not okay. As a society/judicial system the UK has decided that it will put its foot down about these things because it wants to take a stand that racial abuse in all its forms is wrong. I don't see the problem with this.
        So let's argue that 56 days in jail is a bit extreme, let's perhaps argue that it wasn't that offensive to the person concerned (although I would argue I don't know what he could have said that was more offensive) but can we agree that there are some things that in some circumstances it is just wrong to say.

    • The UK is a lost cause. Unfortunately. They'll have to figure it out. I wish them luck. Meanwhile back at the home front, this is precisely why humanity must remain ever vigilant. If you don't fight and secure freedom for yourself and your children, it will be lost. The only way to re-obtain it is through bloodshed. Nobody ever wants it to come to that. Just a little known historical fact.

    • You're correct. The U.S. has such a thing as hate crime, and there's nothing to suggest that this man couldn't have been sued had he been a U.S. resident, but for any government to claim the power to enforce restrictions on speech is disturbing and exactly why the U.S. has the First Amendment in the first place.
  • Nowhere in the article is it said that the student has been "thrown out"; in actuality he's suspended pending the internal disciplinary process (as is, as far as I know, standard whenever a student is arrested). [For what it's worth I happen to be a postgrad at Swansea]
  • by cpu6502 (1960974) on Tuesday March 27, 2012 @12:15PM (#39485463)

    Not just this story but other stories about censorship of the internet & television channels, indicate to me that free speech is no longer a right in the UK. That's a shame because that's where the right was first re-born in the modern world.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Mithent (2515236)
      It's never been a codified right in the vein of the US First Amendment, other than through the European Convention on Human Rights - which allows for plenty of restrictions [wikipedia.org], including those "for the prevention of disorder or crime, for the protection of health or morals, [or] for the protection of the reputation or rights of others", all of which could be argued to be related to "inciting racial hatred".
  • by kramerd (1227006) on Tuesday March 27, 2012 @12:17PM (#39485509)

    Liam Stacey was not arrested for offensive comments. He was found guilty of inciting racial hatred.

    He wasn't thrown out of university; he is suspended pending an investigation.

    The reality of freedom of speech (at least the US concept) is that it is not consequence free speech. While the article does not mention any actual harm committed through racial insensitivity, I can only assume that someone was threatened and that the threat was taken seriously through Liam's postings. If no actual harm was committed, society does not benefit by having someone go to prison.

    • by Hatta (162192) on Tuesday March 27, 2012 @01:04PM (#39486289) Journal

      Liam Stacey was not arrested for offensive comments. He was found guilty of inciting racial hatred.

      He was found guilty of inciting racial hatred because of the offensive comments he made. That means he was arrested for making offensive comments.

      The reality of freedom of speech (at least the US concept) is that it is not consequence free speech.

      It does mean free from legal consequences, if it is to mean anything at all.

      While the article does not mention any actual harm committed through racial insensitivity, I can only assume that someone was threatened and that the threat was taken seriously through Liam's postings.

      Why can you only assume that? There are lots of other things that you could assume, and they're likely to be a lot closer to the truth. I can only assume that the UK is an island full of big wusses who can't stand a little name calling.

  • by plasm4 (533422) on Tuesday March 27, 2012 @12:19PM (#39485527) Journal
    I made a similar submission this morning regarding this issue.

    This guy is being prosecuting for making critical remarks [guardian.co.uk] about British soldiers.

    These guys were sent to prison for encouraging rioting on Facebook [guardian.co.uk].

    The BBC has more information [bbc.co.uk] here.

    Everyone believes that Democracy won the cold war over Communism, but given what's happening in the west today, how true is that?
  • by moonbender (547943) <moonbender@gmai l . com> on Tuesday March 27, 2012 @12:24PM (#39485629)

    Here's what he wrote, according to the Daily Mail: âoeLOL, **** Muamba. Heâ(TM)s dead.â (I assume he actually wrote "fuck", there.)

  • by Hentes (2461350) on Tuesday March 27, 2012 @12:36PM (#39485839)

    If the guy is a paying student the university can suspend him if they think so, but if it's a college funded by the taxpayers they shouldn't have the right to choose between students. There are people convicted of murder studying and getting degrees in jail but a guy guilty of speechcrime can get suspended?

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