Tuesday, 25 June 2024

To joke or not to…..a question of free speech
Two years ago Paul Chambers was frustrated after finding that the Robin Hood Airport in South Yorkshire was closed after heavy snow, and tweeted “Crap! Robin Hood airport is closed. You’ve got a week and a bit to get your shit together, otherwise I’m blowing the airport sky high!!”
To his horror he was later visited by two “anti-terrorist” Officers who charged him with sending a “menacing electronic communication” and was later convicted and fined hundreds of pounds. Worse still it cost him two jobs and no doubt lots of stress.
Finally, with the moral support of actor Stephen Fry and comedian Al Murray who were concerned with the implications for comedy and free speech in general, he won his High Court Appeal. The judges said: “If the person or persons who receive or read it, [the message] or may reasonably be expected to receive, or read it, would brush it aside as a silly joke, or a joke in bad taste, or empty bombastic or ridiculous banter, then it would be a contradiction in terms to describe it as a message of a menacing character.”
Finally a victory for common-sense but we should not be complacent. The authorities, the police, the DPP, and the magistrate/judges who regarded it as ‘unacceptable’, are still in situ and have neither gone away or been advised to leave well alone. Thus we must expect a repeat(s) down the line. It is our duty as (national) liberals to resist all such legislation, or interpretation of such, which restrict our civil liberties where it concerns our (peaceful) actions, expressions or free speech. We have been warned!
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