I’ve been watching in horror over recent months as people are fined and jailed because they’ve made an offensive comment or joke online.
This is a worrying direction in which we are heading. Freedom of speech should be protected at all costs. I decided I would write to my MP expressing my worry and asking if this subject could be raised. I think you should do the same. If I get a response I will update this post or make a new one.
Dear Iain Stewart,
I hope this e-mail finds you well.
I am writing in response to the recent spate of heavy handed sentencing in regards to statements and jokes made on social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter.
I hoped that the overturning of Paul Chambers’ conviction in the ‘Twitter Joke Trial’ would set a precedent in regards to to this subject but instead it seems that judges are continuing to hand out sentences that are grossly out of proportion with the supposed crime as a knee jerk reaction. Sentencing should not be affected by ‘public outrage’.
For example, I refer you to the recent case of Matthew Woods whereby a tasteless and insensitive joke has landed the 19 year old a custodial sentence. This sets a dangerous precedent. Should we really be legislating against bad taste humour? Who decides when the line has has been overstepped?
I also refer you to the recent sentencing of Azhar Ahmed. A young man who expressed an unpopular opinion regarding several dead British soldiers on Facebook. A comment on a website has got him a fine, 240 hours community service and a criminal record. Would the sentence be as tough had the soldiers been foreign nationals and the defendant white?
I can quote several other similar cases from the past year if required.
I am not defending the view points of these people. I am, however, defending the right to express a view that others may dislike or be offended by. Surely you agree that free speech should be a basic right of any British citizen? On a related point, is this seriously an appropriate use of police time in this era of austerity?
As my member of parliament I would greatly appreciate it if you could discuss this subject with fellow MPs and raise the debate in the house of commons.
Thank you for taking the time to read this e-mail.