Aug 172011

From the Telegraph via Tim Worstall:

Jordan Blackshaw, 20, and Perry Sutcliffe-Keenan, 22, were jailed for four years each for inciting the disorder on Facebook despite both being of previous good character.

From the same Telegraph article:

A fourth defendant, Linda Boyd, 31, who has 62 previous convictions, was given a 10 month jail term suspended for two years after she was caught trying to drag away a £500 haul of alcohol, cigarettes and tobacco.

I’m not sure I need to make this comment, but: what kind of justice is this when two people of previous good character receive lengthy custodial sentences for making remarks on Facebook, but a third person who has a long, long history of criminal behaviour is given a suspended sentence for being caught with stolen goods?

I understand that these were different courts with different judges in different regional jurisdictions, but there still seems to be a massive disparity in the interpretation of sentencing guidelines here.

It is outrageous that remarks on Facebook merit a longer, harsher jail sentence than some rapes and murders, let alone theft and looting.

But what is really outrageous is that making remarks on Facebook can be criminalised at all. Perhaps Jordan Blackshaw and Perry Sutcliffe-Keenan can band together with Paul Chambers and his supporters to help stamp out this fascist British tendency toward criminalisation of speech.

  12 Responses to “British justice”

  1. Unfortunately, your title is rapidly heading towards being an oxymoron.

  2. Though I agree that the respective sentences were travesties, I can’t abide your argument that: “what is really outrageous is that making remarks on Facebook can be criminalised at all”. While it’s hard to determine the level of agency of vague exhortations to criminality, you can’t be denying that clearly abetting crime is a criminal offence, surely?

    • What about some facebook posts along the lines of “who cares about MPs expenses? They work hard etc etc” – saw a few of those go unreprimanded…..

    • My my, it seems British Justice is an oxymoron. Since when do digital comments constitute “abetting crime”? Suppose I say, right here on this blog, “Stealing is just fine! You should go steal something, DavidB! In fact, if you manage to kill someone in the process, that’s even better!” I’m clearly a ne’er-do-well, am I not?

    • Since no one followed these guys’ so-called incitement, they didn’t abet any individual’s crime. Ergo: yes, I deny that should be a criminal offence.

  3. Its not often I disagree with you, or DK for that matter, but I think you miss something here,

    Please note that I am starting from a point of where we are, not where we would like to be as libertarians.

    Paul Chambers’ tweet about bombing Nottingham airport was sent out of the blue in a period of calm and only the terminally stupid could see this as anything other than a joke.

    Although I haven’t read the offending remarks on Facebook I haven’t heard anyone describe them as a practical joke or a “bit of a larf”, so we have to assume they were serious. We also have to remember that these we not isolated comments but said in a climate of the breakdown of law and order where the police have been struggling to keep the peace.

    So why is it so dangerous? In the society we have we, the ordinary citizens, having given up certain rights to protect our life and property as we see fit on the understanding that the State will provide that protection. We do this because, by and large, we are generally better off than o
    if there is a free for all on protection and vigilantism.

    Riots are a sign that the State has failed in its side of this bargain and as such they know that we have the right, no, duty, to protect our families and property how we see fit. Once this happens it will be almost impossible to restore order and it will be, as always in these situations, those who least able to protect themselves who will be suffer.

    • You seem to be differentiating between speech online, where people can see it, versus speech in private, where they can’t. If I say to my friends who are gathered in my lounge, ‘Let’s riot on Tuesday night,’ and no policeman is around to hear it, have I committed a crime? Especially if they don’t bother to show up on Tuesday night.

  4. Of course, musing that “stealing is fine” shouldn’t ever be an offence. On the other hand, some digital comments should definitely constitute crime -imagine I knew hrothgar was walking along with something well worth stealing and I tipped off some criminally inclined friends as to his whereabouts.
    Where to draw the line is what we should be considering. I’d argue that it should depend on how instrumental the comments are to the crime. So, indeed, a vague “Get 2 Clapham 4 free stuff and a chance to rumble!!!” should not be an offence, but, if a clear causative link can be established, charges should be made.

    • And if your friends then failed to rob hrothgar, would you still be guilty of a crime?

      Conversely, suppose you told some friends in all innocence where hrothgar was, and unbeknownst to you they went and robbed him? Would your lack of criminal intention then absolve you?

      You see the silly destinations to which this criminalisation of speech leads us?

      • You’re right, there is a distinct slippery slope in the authoritarian direction, (although strict adherence to the presumption of innocence should mitigate against unfortunate miscarriages of justice.) However, the total non-criminalisation of any form of incitement leads us to equally farcical scenarios; imagine an act of terrorism was traced back to the perpetrator’s psychological indoctrination at the hands of one ideologue. That individual, if not brought to justice, would be at perfect liberty to repeat the process.

  5. “But what is really outrageous is that making remarks on Facebook can be criminalised at all.”

    What a stupid statement. Incitement or conspiracy to commit crime is itself a crime. Why should posting it on some wanky social media site make it okay?

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.