“British Man Arrested for Making Nelson Mandela Joke”

by Walter Olson on December 14, 2013

Authorities in Rugeley, Staffordshire, England, detained sandwich shop owner Neil Phillips for eight hours, searched his computer, fingerprinted him and swabbed him for DNA after a local elected official complained that Phillips had engaged in online jokes and comments on Facebook, including jokes about Nelson Mandela. [Birmingham Mail, The Star] Afterward, Phillips complained that the constabulary had “over-reacted massively”: “There was no hatred. What happened to freedom of speech?” Charles Cooke explains at NRO:

Well, the Public Order Act of 1986 happened to freedom of speech – in particular, Section 5, which makes it a crime in England for anyone ”with intent to cause a person harassment, alarm or distress” to

(a) [use] threatening, abusive or insulting words or behaviour, or disorderly behaviour, or (b) [display] any writing, sign or other visible representation which is threatening, abusive or insulting, thereby causing that or another person harassment, alarm or distress.

In other words, Section 5 allows anybody to have anybody else investigated for speaking. And they have. The arrests have run the gamut: from Muslims criticizing atheists to atheists criticizing Muslims….

Is it still legal for Britons to laugh at this Mark Steyn column?

{ 3 trackbacks }

The Perils of “Hate” Speech and Crime Revisited: Edward Cline | RUTHFULLY YOURS
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The Perils of "Hate" Speech and Crime Revisited | Capitalism MagazineCapitalism Magazine
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The Perils Of “Hate” Speech And Crime Revisited | PA Pundits - International
12.20.13 at 7:04 am


1 James Vine 12.14.13 at 5:28 pm
2 Ron Barker 12.14.13 at 6:27 pm

It appears that a premises search was conducted in order to seize Mr. Phillips computer. That means it must have been an aggravated section 5 Public Order offence (Premises searches cannot be made in relation to summary only offences). In other words the offence must have been a racially aggravated offence. Note: Section 57 of the Crime and Courts Act 2013 removes the word “insulting” from section 5 of the Public Order Act 1986. Section 5 makes it an offence to use “threatening, abusive or insulting words or behaviour, or disorderly behaviour” or to display “any writing, sign or other visible representation which is threatening, abusive or insulting” within the hearing or sight of a person “likely to be caused harassment, alarm or distress thereby”. (Crime and Courts Act 2013 (Commencement No. 6) Order 2013) (SI 2013 No. 2981) Article 3 commences section 57 of the Act on 1st February 2014

3 Geoff Kirby 12.15.13 at 2:35 pm

Everybody makes jokes, and a lot of them are tasteless – so what! The only people who are really offended are those who WANT to be offended… people who live very sad lives. Get over it you pathetic people, and try to find yourselves a real life.

4 Geoff Kirby 12.15.13 at 3:54 pm

I’ve had dozens of tasteless jokes (probably HUNDREDS) sent to me via text and email – AND I’ve forwarded them on to others… they are just jokes! Get over it – I feel genuinely sorry for pathetic people who decide to take offence about anything related to anything that could be politically incorrect: sad, sad people. I’ll sit at home now and wait for someone to arrive with the handcuffs…..

5 Anonymous Attorney 12.16.13 at 4:20 pm

Sadly, in the struggle between free speech and diversity, diversity is winning. I suppose if Jeremy Waldron has his way, this sort of thing will soon come to the U.S.

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