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?