Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Imprisoning Obnoxious Prats

These are worrying times for freedom of speech in this country. The following article gets across my feelings so eloquently I saw no reason for reinventing the wheel so have reproduced it in full:

A man, Liam Stacey , has been imprisoned in the UK for using twitter.

Yes, imprisoned for using words that do not constitute incitement of any sort. Such is the tragic state of affairs for liberty in this country.

Stacey tested the legal system.

Law is about dispassion, diligence, about delivering a measured response. It is about controlling public anger for vengeance through tempered reason, particularly when the desire for a particular result may have caught the public mood.

So when Stacey’s object of attack was Fabrice Muamba, rightfully a figure of public sentiment and compassion, the legal system had to be extra-careful to ensure the circumstances did not override its judgment. It failed.

The spirit of criminal due process, enshrined in that fundamental maxim ‘innocent until proven guilty’, is not about prosecution at any cost – it is about absolute vigilance when a man might lose his liberty.

The most important liberty of all being at stake: that absolute freedom of one’s body from interference from the State.

That he lost his liberty for a mere vulgar prank, which had no attack on another’s physical body that should justify the loss of liberty of his own, is not the most worrying aspect of Stacey’s prosecution and conviction.

Not at all.

You should be afraid, on any rational basis, reading the below on the state of Britain, the land of the supposed free, about one of the other twitter cases.

A Newcastle University law student Joshua Cryer, 21, used twitter to bombard the pseudo-celebrity Stan Collymore with abuse in an attempt to "snare a celebrity" by provoking a reaction.

He was charged under section 127 of the Communications Act of sending offensive messages, to the former England player. He was sentenced to a two-year community order with 240 hours' unpaid work ( a serious loss of liberty) and ordered to pay £150 costs to the court.

Cryer was prosecuted under a statute that was never designed for the purpose for which it has been used. This is the Communications Act of 2003.

It is pretty appalling to send a man for prison for the mere usage of words, in the absence of incitement. It's another thing altogether to utterly and despicably twist, convolute and pervert the law to suit the prosecution you want.

Particularly where there is a chance of imprisonment of six months on this offence. Cryer lost his liberties, both physical and financial, illegally.

This is Soviet style justice by our courts. It is Kafkaeseque. It is sick and it is certainly contrary to all things British. It is a sure route to arbitrary government and a destruction of the rule of law.

The provision under which Cryer was prosecuted is The Communications Act 2003, section 127.

This provision and The Communications Act of 2003 was solely designed to do with public broadcasting and not acts by private individuals. The Act is to do with public broadcasting of radios and OFCOM’s regulatory powers.

The clear irrational breach of Parliamentary intent by pursuing this prosecution by the CPS is obvious. Not only was the Act not designed to deal with this, the heading of the specific section used by the CPS to prosecute Cryer is titled ‘PUBLIC’.

This makes it clear it was never designed to cover tweets by individuals, and thus CPS decision to prosecute and the sentence Cryer under this provision is ILLEGAL. (What administrative lawyers call ‘beyond the powers (or law)’ available to a public body).

Jim Brisbane, the misguided Chief Crown Prosecutor for CPS Wales seems to be congratulating himself over the prison sentence.

Even more worryingly Lord Sugar, tweeted: 'good job, be warned idiots'. He is wholly misinformed, he has no idea of the road we are heading down – it is road where regulatory statutes such as the Communications Act 2003 are used to send people to prison.

Following this example, the CPS may wish individuals to be charged under law designed to control another body such as OFCOM.

Perhaps the prosecutors could pick some laws from dental practitioners regulations on hygiene in surgeries, to charge persons who drop litter on their front lawns in order to get them locked-up.

In a country which has a history of valuing the integrity of one’s body (through habeas corpus) against the state, and the importance of the letter of the law- these are anxious times indeed for all those concerned with Britsh Liberty, such as my colleagues in the Freedom of Speech think-tank, Discourse UK.

The Home Secretary must step in and chastise the CPS and end prosecutions under the Communications Act of 2003, as unpopular as that may be.

From Abhijit Pandya's Blog.

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