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UK Man Jailed For 'Offensive Tweets' 922

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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  • 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 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.

  • Re:WTF? (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday March 27, 2012 @12:20PM (#39485547)

    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.


  • Re:For the curious (Score:5, Informative)

    by Korin43 ( 881732 ) on Tuesday March 27, 2012 @12:26PM (#39485657) Homepage

    In case anyone is wondering, here's a post about what he actually did [telegraph.co.uk].

  • Re:WTF? (Score:4, Informative)

    by tbannist ( 230135 ) on Tuesday March 27, 2012 @12:47PM (#39486017)

    Last time I checked Zimmerman had not been arrested or charged with anything. The AC has a point because at least in Florida, murder is legal. Its not just a local police department, it's the entire "Stand your ground" law which makes it legal to murder anyone who's scary.

  • Re:WTF? (Score:5, Informative)

    by Nethead ( 1563 ) <joe@nethead.com> on Tuesday March 27, 2012 @01:15PM (#39486487) Homepage Journal

    Look at what Homeland Security did to the Occupiers...

    Uh, that wasn't DHS, that was local police beating up on hippies. They've been doing that since there have been hippies. It's wrong, but that's a local issue to be look at by the Feds once it gets close to violation of civil rights.

  • Re:WTF? (Score:4, Informative)

    by srmalloy ( 263556 ) on Tuesday March 27, 2012 @01:18PM (#39486557) Homepage

    Judging from the two YouTube videos that scroll the tweets from his account, he has all the couth and social graces of a diarrhoetic yak, but I didn't see anything that was encouraging other people to commit violence against black people. Encouraging other people to commit violence against him, yes -- particularly with his lame "couldn't you tell I was just joking?" tweet -- but that's just being stupid. It wasn't until subsequent tweets that he even mentioned Muamba's race. I have to agree with Baloroth; kicked out of school for egregious conduct, yes, but "inciting racial hatred" is, I believe, out of proportion.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday March 27, 2012 @01:20PM (#39486611)
  • Re:WTF? (Score:5, Informative)

    by serviscope_minor ( 664417 ) on Tuesday March 27, 2012 @01:26PM (#39486719) Journal

    Brits here almost ALWAYS defend these ridiculous laws

    Really? I don't...

  • Re:WTF? (Score:2, Informative)

    by Entropius ( 188861 ) on Tuesday March 27, 2012 @01:29PM (#39486779)

    Why does it mean that it's bad?

    It says that Joe Sixpack can use deadly force when it is immediately necessary to defend himself against serious injury if he is somewhere he has a legal right to be. This was clearly not the case for Zimmerman, who was not defending himself.

    It also says that he cannot be arrested for it unless there is a reasonable suspicion that he used that force unlawfully -- y'know, like every other crime. That reasonable suspicion has been satisfied in this case, so the police should arrest him. That clause means that if somebody breaks into my house with a knife and I shoot them, the police should not arrest me, put me on trial, and then make me assert self-defense in a courtroom. It has no bearing here since there is a reasonable suspicion.

    The law has nothing to do with this case, other than that Zimmerman is citing it in his own defense when it doesn't apply.

  • Re:WTF? (Score:5, Informative)

    by tkrotchko ( 124118 ) on Tuesday March 27, 2012 @01:29PM (#39486793) Homepage

    I assume you're trolling, because the 1st amenedment is quite clear:

    Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.

    Freedom of speech is extremely broad in the united states. You have the right to make offensive speech.

  • Re:WTF? (Score:3, Informative)

    by Just Some Guy ( 3352 ) <kirk+slashdot@strauser.com> on Tuesday March 27, 2012 @01:41PM (#39487029) Homepage Journal

    But this guy, who lives in the UK and is not subject to the US Constitution (which is what is the subject at hand), is going to prison for what he said (which isn't relevant to the discussion).

    Fixed that for you.

    We were discussing the difference between the Constitution's explicitly protected freedoms, and the lack of them in this guy's legal jurisdiction. Please try to keep up.

  • Re:WTF? (Score:4, Informative)

    by shutdown -p now ( 807394 ) on Tuesday March 27, 2012 @02:18PM (#39487603) Journal

    As I understand it, the "stand your ground" law makes it legal to use lethal force if someone feels threatened even on public property.

    You understand wrong. A typical "stand your ground" law makes it legal to use lethal force if a reasonable person (as decided by court/jury) has good reason to believe that they are under imminent threat of death or significant bodily harm. For example, the Florida statute in question:

    "a person who is not engaged in an unlawful activity and who is attacked ... has no duty to retreat and has the right to stand his or her ground and meet force with force, including deadly force if he or she reasonably believes it is necessary to do so to prevent death or great bodily harm."

    If there are any doubts whatsoever about "reasonably believes" part, it goes to court, and jury decides under guidance from the judge. In this particular case, there are very significant doubts, and I don't think any jury would agree with the guy who pulled the trigger being reasonable given the circumstances (heck, several NRA figures have already noted that this is a classic case of inappropriately claimed "self-defense").

    What's broken is the American justice system where the state can refuse to push charges against a potential murderer on such flimsy grounds as this, and in particular the fact that, clearly, this is being used to shield a police collaborator from prosecution.

  • Re:WTF? (Score:4, Informative)

    by PeanutButterBreath ( 1224570 ) on Tuesday March 27, 2012 @02:28PM (#39487735)

    I'm seeing reports that Zimmerman, when interviewed by police had a broken nose, and trauma to the back of the head, which does lend credence to his story that the kid attacked him physically, and with the whack on the head, possibly he was jumped from behind by the kid?

    You must have also heard reports of Zimmerman leaving his car against the recommendation of the 911 operator with the intention of confronting Martin. So he picked a fight, and when he started to lose, he shot the kid.

    Since we know that Zimmerman started the confrontation, why do we not assume that Martin was acting in his own self defense? He was the one who was minding his own business.

    Unless Zimmerman observed Martin committing an actual crime, and he has made no such claim that I have heard, he had no right to confront him and should be held responsible for the result even if he was ultimately acting out of fear for his own life. In a similar vein, if someone is robbing a store, and the clerk pulls a gun, the robber can not shoot the clerk and then claim self defense.

  • Re:WTF? (Score:3, Informative)

    by Garrynz ( 904755 ) on Tuesday March 27, 2012 @03:47PM (#39488835)
    Correct, in fact the first ever UK twitter libel case just concluded a few days ago. Chris Cairns (New Zealand) vs Lalit Modi (India) http://www.espncricinfo.com/ci/content/story/558806.html [espncricinfo.com]
  • Re:WTF? (Score:3, Informative)

    by Just Some Guy ( 3352 ) <kirk+slashdot@strauser.com> on Tuesday March 27, 2012 @04:38PM (#39489469) Homepage Journal
    (PS: Thanks for the "Insightful" mod. Bastards.)
  • Re:WTF? (Score:5, Informative)

    by Xest ( 935314 ) on Wednesday March 28, 2012 @08:00AM (#39494973)

    But you're assuming that every topic should be on the table, and that democratic representation of even the most distasteful viewpoints is a good thing.

    Personally, I'm not sure that the health of a country suffers if the likes of the far-right aren't democratically represented. If anything the US demonstrates the problem - the fact it allowed for such open freedom of speech is why it's so backwards on things like equality of race and sexuality compared to many European countries.

    So great, the KKK, Westborough and co can preach their hate, is the US really better for it? Is your democracy more healthy? Are minorities better represented? Is equality better achieved? I don't think the answer is yes to any of these things in the US.

    Sometimes it's just about being pragmatic, rather than fantasising about a mystical democracy where everyone can think for themselves, no one is influenced by propaganda, and everyone respects everyone else no matter what their physical features or beliefs.

    It's hard getting the balance right for sure, and things are far from perfect here in the UK. There's the ever present danger of it swaying too much towards censorship, but I'm not convinced that danger is any worse than the danger of swaying the other way which causes numerous problems in the US with hate groups openly spouting their propaganda. The level of homophobia, xenophobia and even racism, and sexism to a degree deemed acceptable in mainstream US political debate for example is quite sickening and certainly creates an atmosphere less pleasant to minorities who have done nothing wrong, in a similar way restrictions on hate speech create an atmosphere unpleasant to those who wish to preach hate. Personally I know which group I think is more deserving of suffering that unpleasantness, and I'd wager it's much more preferable and beneficial to society in general that it is the hate speakers that suffer that atmosphere, rather than the targets of such hate speak.

Logic is the chastity belt of the mind!