It has been said many times that what happens in (the formerly Great) Britain soon makes its way to the shores of the US, and that it is rarely good.
In March of this year, Azhar Ahmed of Yorkshire wrote on his Facebook page that he hoped soldiers would burn in hell. A sentiment offensive in its context perhaps, with several soldiers from a local regiment having been killed in Afghanistan that week. On Tuesday he was sentenced to 240 hours community service and fined £300.
Ahmed got off lightly in comparison to Matthew Woods, who made distasteful jokes about missing April Jones and Madeleine McCann. Woods will serve 12 weeks in jail.
Barry Thew, meanwhile, faces a total of eight months in prison after he was arrested and convicted for wearing T-shirt he had daubed with slogans apparently celebrating the shooting of PCs Fiona Bone and Nicola Hughes (I say apparently, as Thew’s defence claimed he was coincidentally wearing the shirt at the time of the killing of the officers. He is reported to have had a long-standing grudge against the police, who he blamed for the death of his teenage son).
What links these three stories is not just the element of “speech crime”. There is, within all three, a sense of offence against public opinion, and public morality itself. Woods is condemned for joking crassly at a time when the nation’s eyes were turned to the search for the missing schoolgirl in Machynlleth.
Three detestable sods. Three detestable statements.
While each may deserve a righteous ass kicking or ten, none of what they said deserves an interaction with the criminal justice system. Not a shilling in fines. Not a second in front of a magistrate. And definitely not any time served.
The Telegraph calls it “shocking”.
Personally, I’m calling it a violation of human rights.