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View Poll Results: What should a judge do when sentencing 'public defendants'?
Take account of the strength of public opinion. 0 0%
Take account of the pronouncements of opportunistic politicians. 0 0%
Listen to his/her heart. 0 0%
Try and act like an independent judge and the public be damned. 9 100.00%
Voters: 9. You may not vote on this poll

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Old 27th Mar 2012, 20:29   #1
fanshawe
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Default Racist tweets and the British legal system

Did you read the one about the student you was jailed for a couple of racist tweets? And does anyone know how the British Justice System is supposed to work?

I hate racism and racists (apart from my parents, obviously), but I can't help feeling sorry for this young idiot after reading the judge's comments.

The idiot's original drunken tweet read:
Quote:
LOL, Fuck Muamba. He's dead.
Leaving aside the unused 'necrophilia' defence (he pleaded guilty to incitement to racial hatred), it's a textbook man-child attempt to elicit either a laugh or outrage. When he got some outraged tweets in response, he called his interlocutors
Quote:
"wogs" and told one to "go pick some cotton".
An idiot sailing on a drunken wind.

The judge's reasons for sentencing him to jail are curious:
Quote:
It was racist abuse via a social networking site instigated as a result of a vile and abhorrent comment about a young footballer who was fighting for his life.
The comments were definitely vile and abhorrent . . . but does that make them a crime? I doubt the efficacy of prosecuting people for this sort of foolishness. Political correctness is great, but surely it would have been enough for him to have been suspended from university and suffer the social consequences of being a public racist? Speech is free and sometimes offence has to be endured.
The judge goes on to describe the public outrage:
Quote:
At that moment, not just the footballer's family, not just the footballing world but the whole world were literally praying for his life.
The whole world were praying for his life? OK, I've nothing against an optimist, however great his ignorance of the limits of modern telecommunications and the localism of culturally determined news values.

Quote:
Your comments aggravated this situation.
How many followers did this fool have? Were the whole world pissed off by his tweets?
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I have no choice but to impose an immediate custodial sentence to reflect the public outrage at what you have done.
Actually, I think he did have a choice. Since when has a judge's job been to bow to the emotive weight of public opinion?
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You committed this offence while you were drunk and it is clear you immediately regretted it. But you must learn how to handle your alcohol better.
Well, I'm sure he'll drink responsibly when he gets out of jail and is shunned by friends and employers.

Is this for real? Can a judge get away with this? Doesn't the 'independence of the judiciary' extend to ignoring public opinion in cases like these? (These aren't rhetorical questions. If anyone knows what the deal is, I'd love to know.)

This follows on from the harsh sentences judges gave rioters in the face of pressure from politicians. [But that's a different and more serious issue than that of the sentimental judge in this case.]
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Old 27th Mar 2012, 22:26   #2
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Default Re: Racist tweets and the British legal system

I broadly agree with Fanshawe, here. And I promised myself I'd not dip into the Politics and Society thread again, too.

Like most big issues it's difficult to know where to come in on this story, so I'll just blunder in and hope I make sense before too long. I think the judge got it badly wrong. And it's not because Liam Stacey isn't a nasty little bigoted shit, because he clearly is, but for other reasons.

I find the Judge's reasoning a somewhat awry. The complaints that were made that afternoon/evening - one by Stan Collymore, who is a tireless campaigner on there, and who I have a lot of time for - were made because of comments one step removed from the Muamba tweet. It was reaction to that first piece of nonsense that then prompted Stacey to get chippy enough to start berating his critics. The Muamba thread (you don't have to follow someone to see what they say, phrases and words are pulled together in 'trending topics') was rife with comment but overwhelmingly supportive. A negative, offensive tweet would have stuck out like a sore thumb, plus with Collymore's involvement everything was ramped up anyway. But fuck, if you were to start throwing the narrow-minded into clink then half of Twitter's (and the entire internet's) population would be doing time. It is, therefore, not nothing to do with Muamba (of course it is connected) but Muamba stopped having anything directly to do with it quite quickly. Therefore, to pull the guy into his summation marks the Judge down as a political player using sentiment to make a point.

There were (and still are) worse things being said about the player, but I won't link to them.

I have seen many comments today saying that this is bordering on thought crime. I'm not sure about that, because I want Stacey to be punished, but 56 days in jail? It puts it into the bracket of the riots sentences, doesn't it? Is this political opportunism? Is it that Judges are finally getting the chance to flex their muscles because they know the weight of the butterfly hive mind (if I may mix everything up horribly) says that this is what they want?
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Old 28th Mar 2012, 7:01   #3
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Default Re: Racist tweets and the British legal system

I agree with both of you. I know less about the issue, but I was shocked to hear someone can be sentenced to prison for a nasty tweet or two. And how did it happen so quickly? I suppose because he pleaded guilty, but shouldn't that normally lessen the sentence? The judge was out of line by a long way.
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Old 28th Mar 2012, 8:27   #4
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Default Re: Racist tweets and the British legal system

Yes, from deed to sentence, 10 days. John Terry, in contrast, will be 260 days.

Go figure.
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Old 28th Mar 2012, 8:51   #5
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Default Re: Racist tweets and the British legal system

Quote:
Originally Posted by amner View Post
But fuck, if you were to start throwing the narrow-minded into clink then half of Twitter's (and the entire internet's population) would be doing time.
This.

And this:

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Originally Posted by amner View Post
Therefore, to pull the player into his summation marks the Judge down as a political player using sentiment to make a point.
This latter I think comes into a similar category as allowing the families of crime victims to make a statement at trials. What happens if the brutal murder occurs of a homeless person with no family or friends? Does the perpetrator get a lesser sentence because there was no-one to say how devastated they were by the crime?

Sorry, that was OT. A custodial sentence seems bonkers for this. Part of me would hope that the weight of public opprobrium, loss of friends, etc. would be sufficient to make this young idiot reflect on why what he did attracted such a reaction but I suppose if he's *that* stupid... I would have thought it might be better to provide him with some kind of relevant education.

If people are put in prison for just saying stuff, that's not going to stop them thinking it. Long and sustained argument might eventually have a better chance of getting through. I know that attitudes and beliefs are some of the hardest things to change, but it might be made more difficult, not less, if people aren't allowed to say wrong things in a public space where they will get instantly slapped down for it.

Having said all that, I recognise that there is a line to be drawn between what is allowable free speech and what is criminal (e.g. incitement to violence, harrassment), and that it's not an easy thing to administer.
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Old 28th Mar 2012, 8:54   #6
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Default Re: Racist tweets and the British legal system

Quote:
Originally Posted by amner View Post
Yes, from deed to sentence, 10 days. John Terry, in contrast, will be 260 days.

Go figure.
And have they arrested any of the Met police officers who took bribes from the Murdoch press yet? (Sorry, OT again!)
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Old 28th Mar 2012, 12:19   #7
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Default Re: Racist tweets and the British legal system

I agree, agree agree agree. Particularly that prison is a wrong-headed response (although that seems to have been the crime as well). You'd think an excessive community service sentence would make more sense in every way.

Alternatively, how much a modern punishment would be 56 days denial of broadband? How about doubling the cost of his internet/mobile phone contract for 12 months and giving the extra to charity, or the tax office? (Okay, that last one, crazy...)
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Old 9th Apr 2012, 15:44   #8
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Default Re: Racist tweets and the British legal system

Victoria Coren puts it in rather better terms than I managed above.
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