Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Not again!

Back in July we had the case of a 17 year old being arrested because he sent a stupid tweet to a sportsman. Now we hear that an unemployed teenager in Chorley has actually been sent to prison for three months because he put  up some tasteless jokes about April Jones and Madeleine McCann on his Facebook page. And, as Douglas Murray points out, the mob (there really is no other way of describing it) in court cheered and applauded.

We can ask all the usual questions. Have the police nothing better to do with their time? Is there no crime to investigate and no burglars or shop-lifters to arrest in Chorley? (Woops, no, shop-lifting is rarely considered to be a crime these days as the police are "under-staffed".) Is not our legal system seriously over-stretched? Can the Chorley JP, Dr Bill Hudson, really not think of any crime that is more disgusting or despicable? Has our centuries-old legal system really descended to the level of vigilante mob rule? And so on, and so on.

Interestingly, Douglas Murray picks up another point in the case.
But even aside from the lack of wisdom in sending someone to prison for telling jokes – however unpleasant – the messages our flailing society sends out seem to be getting increasingly deranged. Perhaps JP Dr Bill Hudson does not have a television. Every time I turn one on I find exactly the type of humour he finds so shocking. Try Jimmy Carr or Frankie Boyle. Almost to a man – only ever men – this nation’s comedians earn their followings by making the most tasteless and disgusting jokes they can get away with. Perhaps they should. Much of the best humour is about pushing peoples’ boundaries of taste. The most popular type of humour in Britain is currently based not on eliciting real laughter but rather a sort of shocked ‘I can’t believe he said that’ gasp. It is not everybody’s idea of comedy, but it is obviously the ideal for a lot of people, because they reward the comedians so lavishly that the comedians themselves often have to locate tax-avoidance schemes to keep themselves in the lifestyle to which they have become accustomed.
Undoubtedly, many of those who cheered and clapped are avid watchers of Jimmy Carr and Frankie Boyle.

ADDENDUM: Keir Starmer, the Director of Public Prosecution has clearly decided that there are no problems in this country with policing, crime and the judiciary, as he is now engaged on a most important task: consulting "with lawyers, journalists and police about how to deal with the growing number of abusive tweets and posts on social networking sites that warrant arrests". No, this is not Iran or Russia but that does not mean that we should just accept this attempt to go after people who put stupid things up on the social media.

Incidentally, I was intrigued to see this in the article after reference to the young man in Chorley:
And yesterday a Dewsbury man who posted a Facebook message that said ''all soldiers should die and go to hell'' after six British soldiers were killed in Afghanistan was spared jail, receiving instead 240 hours of community service.
Is it just because magistrates are different on that side of the Pennines or have we now a hierarchy of speech crimes?


  1. I had long thought that our judicial system was one of the reasons why the Industrial Revolution happened here. It was because it [mostly and unusually for the time] gave fair and equitable justice that defended the person and property to all.
    Thinking about the present economic mire I doubt that it is likely that as a Nation we can climb out of it, for, amongst other things, this is no longer true. As well as the graphic instance of differential justice above, we can all think of many instances in our own lives where a different group of people are subject to laws differently applied.
    Is anyone able to pinpoint when this started to happen or was it just an eventual result of the publication of Das Capital?

  2. Facebook and Twitter attracts a regular supply of self-recruited citizen spies. Did the Stasi attract such willing volunteers?