Is being offensive an offence?

Feb 27, 2021 by

by Tom Slater, spiked:

In 21st-century Britain, thoughtpolicing is a very real and terrifying thing.

Not for the first time of late, the British constabulary seem to be making up the law as they go along.

Their apparent failure to understand our labyrinthine lockdown laws has led to police officers fining two women for going on a perfectly legal walk, carrying out checks at retail parks for allegedly illicit Easter eggs, and scrambling drones over the Peak District to film miscreants taking their exercise in the open air.

[…]  But the issue is also the law. Our hate-speech and hate-crime laws are now so expansive that one could almost forgive these coppers their confusion. For instance, ‘being offensive’ may not be a crime as yet, but being ‘grossly offensive’ online can be, under Section 127 of the Communications Act. Under this law, Scottish YouTuber ‘Count Dankula’ was fined £800 for a comedy skit in which he taught his pug to do a Nazi salute; a teenage girl was given a curfew and an ankle tag for quoting ‘grossly offensive’ rap lyrics on Instagram; two teenage boys were arrested for re-enacting the death of George Floyd on Snapchat; and more recently a Twitter troll was arrested for tweeting something nasty about the death of Captain Tom Moore. All were essentially victimless crimes, and these are just the tip of the iceberg.

Then there is the Orwellian phenomena of ‘non-crime hate incidents’. This is where, in the words of the College of Policing, a ‘criminal offence has not taken place, but the victim or any other person perceives that the incident was motivated wholly or partially by hostility’. These are automatically recorded, with no need for any proof or further investigation, and can show up on an advanced background check of the alleged ‘perpetrator’. Harry Miller, a businessman and former policeman, took the cops to court over this when he was investigated by police for retweeting a trans-sceptical limerick. Officers visited his workplace and one called him at home, saying ‘we need to check your thinking’.

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