Friday, October 12, 2012

No freedom of speech in the UK

Over the past few years Britain has developed an increasingly intolerant attitude towards public expressions of dissent, arresting and even jailing people for criticising its involvement in Afghanistan, for failing to visibly enjoy the olympics, and for expressing republican views. And now we have another case, with a man sentenced to four months imprisonment for wearing a T-shirt with anti-police slogans:

A man who wore a homemade T-shirt containing an offensive anti-police sentiment in the immediate aftermath of the deaths of PCs Fiona Bone and Nicola Hughes has been jailed for a total of eight months.

Barry Thew, 39, of Radcliffe, Manchester, was sentenced at Minshull Street crown court in Manchester to four months in prison, after admitting a section 4a public order offence – displaying writing or other visible representation with intention of causing harassment, alarm or distress. Thew also admitted breaching a suspended sentence imposed for a previous offence of cannabis production for which he was ordered to serve another four months concurrently.

The court heard that at 2.15pm on 18 September, less than three-and-a-half hours after the officers were killed, he was seen in Radcliffe town centre wearing a white T-shirt with the handwritten message on the front and back. He was arrested and taken into custody after complaints from outraged members of the public.

The T-shirt said on its front: "One Less PiG Perfect Justice." On the back: "KiLL A COP 4 HA, haaa?"

In bad taste? Sure (but then, so were the police's actions in killing Thew's son three years ago). But something he should go to jail for? Hardly. While its a crime to incite murder, its not a crime to express satisfaction at someone's death (example: David Cameron was notably not arrested for this). Free and democratic societies recognise this, and robust societies can deal with it. But the UK is no longer free and democratic, let alone robust; the increasing intolerance of those in power towards any view which is not suitably fawning towards them demonstrates that.