I hesitated on whether to post on this, but in the end felt that I had to, as a truly horrible step too far. Last Friday two men in the UK were given stiff jail sentences. Their crime? Running a website posting material which the UK government considered was “offensive”. The BBC report is here.
No-one seems to have been hurt. No quantifiable injury to anyone is mentioned anywhere that I have seen. The offence was to verbally attack ethnic minorities of various sorts. Apparently — the BBC is vague — they may have queried the holocaust as well in some way.
Simon Sheppard and Stephen Whittle correctly assessed their chances of justice, and fled to the US and asked for asylum, since they had committed no crime under US law and their website was based in the US. The judge, who apparently has a history of left-wing activism, denied them asylum.
Judge Rodney Grant told the men their material was “abusive and insulting” and had the potential to cause “grave social harm”.
He added: “Such offences as these have, by their very nature, the potential to cause grave social harm, particularly in a society such as ours which has, for a number of years now, been multi-racial.
Um. So, no actual harm to anyone. He then sentenced Simon Sheppard to four years and ten months in prison, and Stephen Whittle to a lesser term.
That, said Adil Khan, head of diversity and community cohesion at Humberside Police, makes their conviction a first.
“This case is groundbreaking,” he said.
“The fact is now that we’ve been able to demonstrate that you’ve got nowhere to hide; people have been hiding on [sic] the fact that this server was in the US.
“Inciting racial hatred is a crime and one which seems to occur too regularly. This kind of material will not be tolerated as this lengthy investigation shows.”
Um. Inciting feelings … Was any evidence that these feelings *were* incited produced at the trial? Who precisely came along to testify that he now hated immigrants? Surely this is just weasel words for “saying anything that I think might cause people to react negatively to something I approve of.” I wonder how many political campaigns would pass that test?
Note the length of the sentences. Now look at this article: a drug dealer got more or less the same. Wreck hundreds of lives and make a million, and you get just under five years. Say Wrong Things, and you get just under five years. And we can be pretty certain that the establishment will bully and abuse Sheppard and Whittle in prison, in a way it would never dare do to a favoured group.
Groundbreaking? Yes, indeed it is. How proud we all are of Humberside police, and their “head of diversity and community cohesion”.
You have to hate people pretty badly to lock them up for their opinions. Whether we agree with Sheppard and Whittle is irrelevant; they had the right to say what they thought. At least, they thought they did.
First they came for those they called “racists”…
(Thanks to Five Feet of Fury for the tip).