Thought Conviction

The thought police aren’t just out there, they’re getting convictions.

A Scottish man who made a website with sick jokes about blacks, Muslims, homosexuals, disabled peopled pleaded guilty to committing a racially aggravated breach of the peace by producing and managing the website.  He only avoided jail by having no previous convictions and quickly admitting his guilt. Instead he gave 160 hours of community service. That’s a month of full-time unpaid work. Plus, he forfeited 12 pieces of computer equipment.

He didn’t make fun of any specific people, other than Simon Weston, the disfigured Falklands War veteran.

I’ve just been reading up on that amorphous area of the common law called “breach of the peace” and even as ambiguous at it can be, I can’t see how the website breached the peace. Breach of the peace is a catchall that the police seem to use when they have nothing else to go on to accomplish their goal. In this case, Andrew Love seems to have done something people find really distasteful, but he didn’t actually do it to anyone.

No one is forced to see his website and they are certainly free to immediately surf away from it the moment they find something they don’t like. No children or animals were harmed in the making of the website.

 According to the Daily Telegraph, ‘Alistair McSporran, prosecuting, said officers found “numerous” items on the website “that had gone beyond the realms of bad taste”. These included a phoney Islamic jihad group and a picture which showed an American police officer being offensive to a young black child in a toy car.’ This is beyond the realm of bad taste?

While I don’t condone Mr Love’s choice of humour, neither do I think it should be a criminal offence.

4 Responses to Thought Conviction

  1. Might a link still be available? I might just copy the whole of it just to make a point! It seems that authorities everywhere have to find reasons to justify their existence.

  2. Dave says:

    There was no link provided by the Daily Telegraph. I would assume that as it has been the subject of a prosecution, it has been taken down.

  3. Michael says:

    This is a pretty disturbing story, David. While we may not condone the man’s opinions, unless they incite violence it seems to be a question of free speech.

    I don’t know much about it, but I’ve heard that Scottish law is different to English common law (which influences Australia). Do you know under what legislation he was prosecuted?

  4. Dave says:

    I wasn’t previously aware of this, but there are still common law offences in Scotland, even though it is not a common law jurisdiction. According to the Scottish Executive, because breach of the peace is common law offence, there is no statutory limit to the sentence. “Thus the maximum penalty for common law offences such as breach of the peace is limited not by statute but the court which hears the case. In the High Court, a life sentence is theoretically possible, and a sentence of 8 years was recently imposed.”

    Now that is really scary.

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