Linford House arrested for poppy burning – another Malicious Communications Act prosecution?

Linford House arrested for poppy burning – another Malicious Communications Act prosecution?


We saw it most recently with Matthew Woods, convicted under the Malicious Communications Act 1988 for posting ‘sick jokes’ on his Facebook page about missing 5-year-old April Jones, and imprisoned for 12 weeks.  Is Linford House the next in line for such a sentence?

The nineteen year-old from Canterbury was arrested yesterday evening and is being questioned by police for an alleged offence under the Malicious Communications Act.  It is said that Mr House posted a picture of a burning poppy on Remembrance Sunday, along with a crude comment.

The story has been extensively covered in the press.  The Independent quoted John Cooper QC as saying:

“Freedom of speech is not just the freedom to say nice things, it is the freedom to say obnoxious and distasteful things as well. What we have here, is a stupid and foolish young man making an obnoxious gesture. But to potentially criminalise him and to arrest him is disproportionate and dangerous to the very fundamental freedom of speech.  There seems to be a growing intolerance and a particular intolerance to comments made on social media. It is almost as if certain sections of society – the police – are trying to send out unwarranted heavy-handed signals which are an affront to the very rights that we hold dear.”

Mr House has not harmed anyone by posting the picture.  We may find it grossly offensive, but does this warrant a prosecution, with the tax payer potentially footing the bill?  Is this another ‘nail in the coffin’ of free expression, or is this a just arrest?



  1. You ask good questions, Sara. This quite alarming news story inspired me to write a poem last night, something I’ve done on fewer than a dozen occasions in my entire life to date.

    Readers of this blog can comment on my poem, rather than upon Sara’s questions, by clicking over to my own blog. Sara, please feel free to abridge this posting, if you don’t want my whole poem on your blog.


    I choked back tears, as I heard the rhyme
    On 11/11, at just the right time
    In my home town square, where the wreaths had been laid
    And the mayor wore his chain, and the Last Post was played.
    For our tomorrow, they gave their today.
    Shall we squander their sorrow? Throw tomorrow away?

    A foolish young man set a poppy alight
    In brave new tomorrow, that’s his human right.
    I cannot fathom this young man’s rage,
    Which might have “gone viral”, if left on his page.
    But was it sincere, the remembrance he tested?
    Were we glad or appalled, when this lad was arrested?

    “He has no respect!”, some of us cried,
    Forgetting completely why others had died
    Bent double like beggars, in trenches of squalor.
    It quite slipped our minds, the reason such valour
    Had been demanded of their generation.
    They gave their today, for the sake of our nation.

    The policemen today are much younger than I,
    Less able than ever to understand why
    My dad, who loved peace, played his part in a war
    And then taught his sons what that war had been for.
    An informer called in, said, “A poppy’s alight!”.
    The culprit? Arrested. To hell with his “right”!

    I cannot figure the meaning, in truth,
    Of burning the poppy, in the mind of the youth.
    But I know what that image speaks of to me,
    Of those who died, so that he could be free.
    Though the money I gave the legion can keep,
    I must burn my poppy, before I can sleep.

    With different meaning, his gesture I’ll copy
    By setting on fire my own paper poppy,
    Not from contempt for the glorious dead,
    But out of respect, for, all done and said,
    These heroes suffered a terrible fate
    Lest England became just another police state.

    The man that I am, who almost cried,
    As I wore my poppy, with sadness and pride,
    Has found a new meaning, to letting it burn
    As I ask myself: Oh when will we learn?
    Hypocrisy mourns for those killed in just war
    And then sets on fire, what they had died for.

    • More than five years on, I have noticed that Sara did abridge my poem, but only to omit the final verse, which reads:

      With different meaning, his gesture I’ll copy
      By putting a light to my own paper poppy;
      Not from contempt for the glorious dead,
      But out of respect; for, it has been said,
      These heroes suffered their undeserved fate
      Lest England became just another police state.

  2. Not so much a matter of criminalizing. I wish to say that I despise what House did but we are witnessing a growth in the arrest of people for political dissent. A very dangerous growth.

  3. As one who has never failed to observe the Silence, which this year I spent at the memorial on the Somme before going on to Ypres for the Last Post – I am appalled. The CPS must rein in the police now.