Its NO LONGER A Free Country

You used to often hear the expression “its a free country” in everyday usage in the UK. The phrase was usually used as a response when someone said “you can’t do that” or something similar, and was usually used in a fairly jokey spirit. You seldom hear this phrase nowadays.  The fighting spirit and sense of humour that used to characterize the British people has been slowly ebbing away, gradually suffocated by a climate of overweening political “correctness”. Particularly in the area of freedom of speech our liberty has been gradually reduced, almost without a whimper from the populace. It is as though the British people as a whole no longer even really value freedom of speech very highly any more.

Its not just the mainstream media that is creating a climate of hostility to free speech, but increasingly Western governments are enacting and enforcing laws that restrict speech far beyond the very small limitations that used to be accepted. For example, lets look at the recent case of one Stephen Bennett who was prosecuted, convicted and sentenced to a 12 month community order including 180 hours of unpaid work. His crime? He had made some general remarks on social media about Asian women and Muslims, that were deemed to be “grossly offensive” under the Communications Act 2003.

Manchester Evening News reported the case. Their journalists were not apparently told all the details of what he had written that was deemed so “grossly offensive”. All that had been revealed to the press apparently is that he had written this (1):

“Don’t come over to this country and treat it like your own. Britain first.”

WHAT DID HE MEAN?

Now, I don’t know how on earth anybody could come to the conclusion that this statement alone is so “GROSSLY offensive” that it should warrant prosecution at all let alone warrant a 12 month community order. Possibly there was something much more offensive in the other things he wrote that have not been revealed. Let us examine this statement however and try to decide what he meant. I personally feel the statement is vague and could be interpreted in two different ways.

THE WORST CASE

I think the worst possible meaning of this sentence is that it could be seen as implying that Asian/Muslim people who are born in this country do not really belong here. That’s not very nice to them, a bit offensive perhaps, but if people take SUCH great exception to this then really I have to say I don’t think they are very mature people. Mr. Bennett is a cleaner, it is not as if his voice carries huge weight in our country. He does not have 1000s of followers and he is not a high profile figure, or at least he wasn’t, before the state decided to prosecute him for nothing much. In any case I find it really rather difficult to believe that this was what Mr. Bennett really meant, because apparently “His lawyer added that his mother-in-law and sister-in-law were Muslims, and that he was not racist.” (1). I am therefore rather strongly inclined to think this is not what he meant.

THE BEST CASE

I think the best interpretation is that its a statement of who we the British are. We are people who do not believe in Sharia law, we are people who believe in women’s equality, and crucially we are people who believe in FREEDOM OF SPEECH. Our Prime Minister Theresa May has reiterated that FREEDOM OF SPEECH is one of our VALUES. The Muslim culture does not believe in FREEDOM OF SPEECH, criticism of the man the Muslims regard as their prophet is strictly forbidden in Muslim culture, and indeed was forbidden by Mohammed himself. Take for example the case of Asia Bibi, who has been on death row for 7 long years now for the “crime” of blasphemy (2).  She is dying in prison. Readers should note that in her case lawyers were too frightened to talk about what she had said, i.e. the lawyers in the case COULD NOT TALK DURING THE COURT CASE ABOUT WHAT SHE WAS BEING PROSECUTED FOR SAYING. Can you not see the direction of travel that we are heading in here? Those of you who are familiar with Franz Kafka’s nightmarish novel “The Trial” will see parallels with that great novel as well.

If this interpretation was what Mr. Bennett really meant by what he said then I AGREE WHOLEHEARTEDLY WITH WHAT HE SAID. His conviction should be overturned IMMEDIATELY and he should be compensated fully for:

  • Loss of earnings while on trial.
  • Anxiety sustained during the legal process and after it.
  • Danger to him and his family created by having his identity revealed and his picture splashed on national newspapers.
  • Any impact on his future job prospects (in perpetuity) that the case has caused (this could be considerable and he has several children to support).

I also think he should be given a book deal and invited to speak at all the major British universities who seem to have forgotten the value of freedom of speech. Any students who attempt to “no-platform” him should be expelled from their British university immediately. He should be cheered by true Brits everywhere he goes, whatever their ethnic origin, because true Brits believe in Freedom of Speech. It is who we are.

He should be given an Order of the British Empire medal and invited to Buckingham Palace to have a cup of tea with the Queen so that she can thank him from her heart for standing up for her (and our) country’s most important values. He should also be invited to no.10 Downing Street so that Theresa May can apologize to him in person for failing to defend his liberty. She was after all the Home Secretary for 5 years and now she is the Prime Minister. She has had plenty of time to revise or repeal the law he was charged under, among other things she needs to apologize for.

All of this is conditional of course – it must be revealed that the rest of what he said was also in keeping with this sentiment.

WE SHOULD BE TOLD IN FULL WHAT HE HAD WRITTEN THAT RESULTED IN THE JUDGEMENT

This is one of my biggest issues with the case in fact, the fact the details are being kept from us. I think we SHOULD be told what he said, for these reasons:

  • The words did not refer to anyone specifically (as far as we can tell from the article), so there is no danger involved in revealing the words. Its not a similar case to where you need an injunction.
  • Lots of similar comments are (probably) being made all over social media, its hardly as if the opinions he expressed are some big secret.
  • If they are not revealed the punishment will have no deterrence on others (readers please note I make this argument as it were from the point of view of those who think a person should be punished for making such a comment, obviously I don’t think so).

A counter argument to all this is that perhaps his life might be endangered if the comments are fully revealed. However there are bigger issues at stake than one individual’s personal safety here. If the authorities can silence opinions and the public not be told what those opinions are, then the authorities now have a hugely unreasonable degree of power over the citizens. We are living in an Orwellian police state already. George Orwell warned us that such a society might develop in the future in his book 1984. We should have been heeding his warning, now look at the mess we’re in.

THE AUTHORITIES ARE JUST TRYING TO MAINTAIN LAW AND ORDER

I suspect this is at least to an extent the thinking behind (or the excuse for) this kind of prosecution. However what we (including the govt.) need to remember is that freedom of speech is not easily won yet it can be very easily lost. Sometimes you have to take risks to preserve it. We must be courageous in defence of our freedom. Theresa May should remember that keeping law and order is only one of her duties as Prime Minister, defending Freedom of Speech is another that is just as important.

TO ALL TRUE BRITS

This case may not seem that significant but precedents are being set by cases like this and we need to let the authorities know that we’re not going to let our liberties be taken away from us. LAWFARE is being waged against the lovers of freedom, and we must fight back in kind. Lets set our own precedent by appealing this case right up to the Supreme Court if we can.

He is a cleaner, I very much doubt he can afford to hire a lawyer for an appeal. If there are any true Brits still out there, who believe in defending our most important freedoms, then please stay tuned to this blog as I am going to try to organize a crowdfund for his defence.

SUMMARY

A law that criminalizes statements that are “grossly offensive” is not a law that can be applied fairly and consistently, because the statement is inherently subjective. What is offensive to some people is often a funny joke to others. We need this law (Tony Blair’s Communications Act 2003) to be repealed or at the very least reworded to remove this incredibly vague statement.

I was born free, in a free country, and I yearn to live in a free country again. Please help my wish come true by linking to this post, or republishing it (with acknowledgement and a link to my site please) or write your own post about the case.

If any readers know how Mr. Bennett can be contacted, please post the details in a comment on this article (all comments are moderated – I will not publish the comment I will delete it immediately after reading).  My purpose is to establish whether Mr. Bennett would be interested in appealing the sentence if it can be funded by others on his behalf.

REFERENCES:

(1) http://www.manchestereveningnews.co.uk/news/greater-manchester-news/online-troll-muslims-police-facebook-11707461#ICID=sharebar_twitter

(2) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Asia_Bibi_blasphemy_case

RELATED:

https://chaunceytinker.wordpress.com/the-ballad-of-aasiya-bibi/

 

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6 thoughts on “Its NO LONGER A Free Country

  1. This is the kind of case that I would have expected the Lawyers Secular Society to be interested in. Unfortunately the main man got scared off by death threats when they supported the planned Mohammed Cartoons show in London and they seem to be moribund now (perhaps I’m wrong):

    https://lawyerssecularsociety.wordpress.com/

    Good luck in contacting him. I shall follow events.

    Also, you may find Liberty GB supportive. They might publish your post:

    http://www.libertygb.org.uk/

    ps a couple of WordPress tips, things it took me too long to find out:

    1. If you get onto your wordpress profile and click on help it will show you how to add your site to your gravatar. It helps to lead people to your site.

    2. Have you found the link button on the WordPress edit screen? Dynamic linking saves the reader having to scroll down to the bottom of the post to click on the reference.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Great thanks for all this. I heard about libertygb helping another similar case in fact forget the name, but the other link is particularly interesting as well.

      Thanks for the wordpress tips as well. 2. was more of a strategy thing because I didn’t want people getting distracted following other links until they’d read the whole post, but maybe its best to link directly – people can always right-click open in new tab, that’s what I do.

      Like

  2. Free speech in UK?

    http://www.breitbart.com/london/2016/08/30/uk-police-investigate-offensive-social-media-critics-huge-new-migrant-centre/

    http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/2003/21/section/127

    No doubt, the citizens of Widnes might be concerned that crime in the town would increase, as it did in Cambridge when hundreds of young men of fighting age were trusted to roam the city and obey the law of the land.

    https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2015/may/15/two-libyan-soldiers-jailed-for-raping-man-in-cambridge

    Basically, Asst. Chief Constable Sarah Boycott is advising citizens to ignore legitimate concerns about the safety of their persons and property, and mildly accept the policies and arrangements of HM government, because to do otherwise is ‘socially unacceptable’.

    Is what Asst. Chief Constable Sarah Boycott is saying correct? Do UK police have the authority to arrest people who complain about too much immigration, and those who associate immigrants with increased crime and social disorder?

    Under s. 127 – Improper Use of Public Electronic Communications Network (i.e. the internet)

    (1) A person is guilty of an offence if he…….

    (a) sends by means of a public electronic communications network a message or other matter that is grossly offensive or of an indecent, obscene or menacing character

    (2) A person is guilty of an offence if he – for the purpose of causing annoyance, inconvenience or needless anxiety to another, he……

    (a) sends by means of a public electronic communications network a message that he knows to be false

    Thus, for s.127 to be used, an internet message MUST be GROSSLY offensive – or FALSE and intended to harrass. Right?

    So, Asst. Chief Constable Sarah Boycott is either trying to intimidate citizens into not expressing – on social media – their dislike of a centre for ‘refugees’ being established in their town; or else she doesn’t know the law. Right?

    Perhaps not?

    Attached are the CPS’s guidelines for prosecuting ‘grossly offensive’ messages……..

    http://www.cps.gov.uk/legal/a_to_c/communications_sent_via_social_media/#a07

    An initial reading of them seems to show that there has to be a reasonably objective assessment of whether or not a message is ‘grossly offensive’ – and the definition is explored in a fairly comprehensive review…….which concludes that messages on social media that include criticism – rational or irrational – of minorities, are largely to be tolerated unless there is real and obviously criminal intent to do harm.

    HOWEVER……there then follows a shorter section on ‘Hate Crime’, which appears to throw the afore-mentioned objective legal argument completely out of the window.

    The reality is that If the police and prosecutors consider that a HATE CRIME has been perpetrated in social media posts/messages – then it seems that objective legal assessment of ‘grossly offence’ is vitiated, and the authorities can make a largely subjective ruling……..

    …………especially if the ‘victim’ states that he/she ‘feels victimsed/oppressed’ by the ‘post’, and that their feelings/interpretation are paramount.

    “Prosecutors must also have regard to whether the offence was motivated by any form of discrimination against the victim’s ethnic or national origin, gender, disability, age, religion or belief, sexual orientation or gender identity; or the suspect demonstrated hostility towards the victim based on any of those characteristics. The presence of any such motivation or hostility will mean that it is more likely that prosecution is required.”

    So, if senior police officers – like Sarah Boycott – consider that objections to ‘refugee’ centres in one’s community (no matter how temperately and rationally expressed) are based on ‘hostility to migrants’ and/or constitute possible ‘racial discrimination’, then one can be arrested hauled over the coals, prosecuted and labelled a racist – with all the negative implications for employment and social standing.

    ‘Hauling over the coals’, includes the taking of fingerprints and DNA – regardless of being charged or not.

    Moreover, let it be also borne in mind, that it is local police authorities who set local policing priorities, and allocate resources. Local police chiefs could very easily decide that people whinging and moaning about life and local conditions and government on social media is not as important as countering drug trafficking, burglaries, vehicle crime and offences against the person.

    However – what is important to the safety and security of local people, does not seem to correspond to the priorities of politicians and pressure groups…….or the careers of the police chiefs who decide what is important……..just as long as everyone gets along, and nobody is made to feel bad.

    Hate crime is the new bete noire in UK criminal justice…….

    ……the excellent Brendan O’Neill explains it in superlative terms……..

    http://www.spectator.co.uk/2016/08/the-real-hate-crime-scandal/

    Quote……..

    The CPS says any crime that involves ‘ill-will, ill-feeling, spite, contempt, prejudice, unfriendliness, antagonism, resentment, or dislike’ on the basis of a ‘personal characteristic’ could be a hate crime. So unfriendliness can now be criminal.

    The police are incentivised to find hatred, because their goal isn’t to tackle crime so much as to create a public impression of mass hatred.

    ……the ‘Hate Crime Procedure’ of the Surrey Police says ‘apparent lack of motivation as the cause of an incident is not relevant as it is the perception of the victim or any other person that counts’. No clear hateful motivation? Doesn’t matter. Record it as a hate crime anyway.

    Recently, a UK individual had the outboard engine stolen from his speedboat – police asked him if he felt he was the victim of ‘hate crime’.

    No wonder that politically motivated groups, individuals, politicians, journalists and lawyers and are exploiting the issue mercilessly…….it is worth noting that whilst police, media and interest groups report the rise in ‘hate crime’ broadly…..there has been rise in convictions.

    The authorities know how badly the real social effects of politically correct policies have been received over the past 15yrs; and are now trying to put the genie back in the bottle by categorising anyone complaining about social conditions as a ‘racist troublemakers’.

    Surely, this strategy will only be effective for so long.

    It has become almost a cliche to cite the cases of rampant sexual violence perpetrated almost exclusively by muslim Britons against young girls, and the concomitant reluctance of the police to do anything about the issue for ten years……but the disgusting reality of British criminal justice today is that an individual complaining about such offences is probably more likely to be investigated than the perpetrator of multiple violent and depraved acts.

    I recall a 2-3 years ago my parents’ local council ‘consulted’ its citizens on the prospect of accommodating gypsy/traveller ‘communities’ on local green belt sites. All views and objections were welcome the consultation document stated……but objections based on ‘perceptions of increased crime would be put in the bin’.

    Earlier this month, the quiet enjoyment of our holiday in Devon was disturbed by news of a spate of burglaries in their village, including two of immediately adjacent properties, involving break-ins and the theft of a caravan. My father had to be persuaded not to return home.

    Local police said that gypsies/travellers were almost certainly responsible.

    Wonder if the parish newsletter will mention this? Technically, w/o firm evidence of who the thieves were – it could constitute an offence under s.127, or indeed, if one used the term ‘thieving gypsy bastards’ ……..a ‘hate crime’.

    It’s not just about immigrants and race either………wolf-whistling at a woman can be a ‘hate crime’, calling a homosexual a ‘silly poof’ can be a ‘hate crime’, talking the mickey out of a man with a limp can be a ‘hate crime’, etc. etc.

    No wonder that the vast majority of British people only seem to express their views at the ballot box…….and with free expression squashed, by those on the Left (for ideological reasons) and the authorities (to keep order), it is no wonder that anti-EU and UKIP voters have been demonised as ‘haters’.
    .
    .
    .
    .
    If you are further inclined to examine the issue – then there are some interesting views here……….

    https://ukhumanrightsblog.com/2012/12/19/new-prosecution-guidance-on-offensive-speech-online-sensible-but-the-law-is-still-out-of-date/

    https://ukhumanrightsblog.com/2012/10/09/twelve-weeks-in-prison-for-sick-jokes-really/

    As noted, the legislation was enacted by Blair’s government in 2003, before social media exploded…….and like much of this illiberal regime’s legislation – its misuse and misapplication was broadly predicted.

    Modern UK…….’we will control you or you will suffer’!!

    http://www.spectator.co.uk/2016/09/want-to-know-whats-happened-to-labour-study-parasites/

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks for the feedback!

      I’ll reply to some of your other points which are all good first but then I want to try to steer the focus onto the specifics of Mr. Bennett’s case, because I feel we have to take up one case at a time if we’re going to fight back against this tide of authoritarian idiocy.

      “Hate crime is the new bete noire in UK criminal justice…”

      Indeed I’ve written at length about this “phenomenon” of “hate Crime” in two posts

      Brexit Hate Surge

      Hate Crime – A Terribly Flawed Concept

      (I am going to re-write the last one with more examples at some point (more examples are occurring by the day now), at the moment the post is a bit too abstract. Essentially though I reject the very concept of “hate crime”. I would welcome any feedback on those articles about the more general questions.)

      In the Widnes case you raise the complaints are running along the lines of “we don’t object to asylum seekers but ……”. The problem with the opposition right now is that its mostly along the lines of “not in my back yard”. This attitude I believe is partly a symptom of the fact that patriotism has been turned into a sin, and people are made to feel ashamed of objecting to immigration. Do these people really think its ok to just shove the asylum seekers into someone else’s back yard instead? Frankly the asylum system is not fit for purpose in the current age, we should not feel under any obligation to accept any asylum seekers at all. If we do so it should be only because the majority of the UK want to accept them, but I don’t believe the majority do want to accept the current waves of mainly Muslim migrants. (I intend to return to this subject of asylum in a dedicated future post.) We need to recover our sense of patriotism and pride in our culture while recognizing that people who are here already can be a part of our country and our culture, as long as they are not trying to undermine it. Entering a country illegally is a criminal act and should be dealt with accordingly.

      The govt. we have right now is not a rational govt.. I regard this “Conservative” govt. as just the last in the line of Blairite govt.s where spin takes priority over what is actually accomplished in the real world. Problems are swept under the carpet, and the can is kicked down the road. More and more our laws resemble a tangled ball of string. The govt. will only change course (or better still, be replaced), when large numbers of ordinary people down tools and start seriously opposing what is going on. The problem is right at the top of government – the true extent of Theresa May’s contempt for freedom of speech is revealed in her Counter Extremism Strategy which I wrote about here:

      https://chaunceytinker.wordpress.com/2016/03/20/extremist-banning-and-disruption-orders/

      This would completely overrule the sensible limitations you refer to in the CPS doc., as I explained in that post. I increasingly doubt these EDOs/EBOs will ever become law (they are delayed again into next year), but they reveal the complete lack of any sense of rational judgement in her mind when she equates Islamic hate preachers with some rational anti-Islamic rhetoric.

      The ukhumanrightsblog.com articles you link to are very interesting. I think the comment about mob justice is very apt in Mr. Bennett’s case, judging by the comments in the Manchester Evening News article. Another concerning thing is none of the apparently significant number of complainants appear to have felt the urge to simply debate with Mr. Bennett about what he was objecting to, but rather rushed to the law. His underlying concerns may in fact be perfectly valid, if we were but allowed to know what they are. If they are not, it would make far more sense to convince him of the error of his ways through debate.

      I believe in Mr. Bennett’s case the judgement was probably incorrect by the standards in the CPS document. Possibly the CPS was not consulted in this case, it isn’t always if the case is “minor” in the eyes of the prosecution.

      “they will refer the case to us for advice on how to proceed in all but the most minor and routine cases”

      Where it says:

      “Aggravated or hate crime offences include offences that may be committed via social media, such as harassment, stalking or the distribution of written material or visual images.”

      This is extremely vague, because “written material” could literally be taken to mean any words written on social media.

      Where you mention the Hate Crime section I interpret the doc. overall as meaning this section only applies in cases where a more serious Category 1,2,3 offence such as directly threatening a particular known individual with physical violence for example, or Category 4 communications targeting a particular individual. I cannot believe this section is supposed to apply to Category 4, merely “grossly offensive” communications which are not targeting particular individuals. When all it takes for a “crime” to be categorized as a “hate” crime is for the “victim” to perceive it as such, then the lines are blurred indeed, but if the comments were not targeted I don’t really see how they could argue that there was a “victim” as such.

      My belief is that Mr. Bennett’s case would have been dismissed by the CPS, or at least should have been if it was referred to them, according to these guidelines. However I agree with you that the wording of the doc. is too vague. There should be completely separate guidance/different doc.s altogether for communications that are not targeted at specific individuals. I see nothing in the news article to suggest that his comments were not just general comments.

      In the news article there is also no reference to any attempt to persuade Mr. Bennett to apologize and simply remove the comments, which would have made a prosecution unnecessary according to the CPS doc.. That’s not to say I think he should have come under such pressure, but merely that it is a kinder option that doesn’t seem to have been looked at.

      Like

  3. The problem is that as individuals we can do little whereas those who seek to use these badly draughted laws are very well funded and organised.I am prepared to put some money into a group fund to preserve our freedoms.I am hoping UKIP will take these things on.

    Liked by 3 people

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