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Liam Stacey’s drunken racist Tweets, as Fabrice Muamba lay possibly dying, shocked us all: but his inhumane punishment should shock us too

It isn’t a judge’s business to reflect public outrage, but to act with judicial balance

By on Friday, 30 March 2012

I wonder how many of my readers have followed the very nasty story of Liam Stacey, the drunken student who, as the footballer Fabrice Muamba lay unconscious on the pitch as medical staff fought for his life, tweeted to the very few people who followed his tweets the astonishing words “LOL [laugh out loud]. F*** Muamba. He’s dead!!!”

How drunk one has to be before one actually thinks of doing something so revolting, I don’t know; but he was at that point: he had, it seems, been drinking all day. This seems to me one of the worst features of the so-called “social media”: they operate utterly unreflectively. There is absolutely no pause for thought. Stacey was alone. Before the era of tweeting and texting he would have probably passed out and woken with a hangover: nobody would ever have known what had passed through his reeling consciousness; he would probably even have forgotten it himself.

As it was, he tweeted his drunken ramblings virtually as they passed through his sodden brain. His tweet was then multiply retweeted, and spread exponentially : the whole thing then became almost like an online riot, with people tweeting sentiments just as revolting to him, to which he then replied. The Times writer David Aaronovitch, whose very sensible piece in that newspaper gave me the nerve to vouchsafe my views here (one needs nerve these days to write in a balanced way on a topic involving racism) tracked down some of the tweets to which Stacey had responded with his most offensive tweets:

“One, a psychiatric nurse from Leeds, had tweeted Stacey calling him a ‘f****** pr***’. Another, to whom Stacey sent his most violent tweet, had already typed “you must be f****** barmy if you think a greasy little welsh sheep shagger could take on a f****** cockney you silly fat w*****”. This amiable person subsequently offered to come and burn Stacey and his family to death.” To these and similar sentiments Stacey replied with such gems as (to a twitterer somehow racially identifiable) “I ain’t your friend you wog c***. Go and pick some cotton.” There were others, apparently considerably more offensive, but since all the online accounts of the affair say they are too vile to quote, I don’t know what they were and can’t quote them myself.

As the day wore on, Stacey sobered up, and realised what he had done. He became aware that he was in trouble. He started saying it was all a joke, then that he hadn’t meant it, then he claimed that his account had been hi-jacked by someone else, then he moved on to abject apology. But it was all too late: there had been complaints to the police. He was arrested, tried and found guilty. And he was then sentenced, not only to 56 days in prison, but as a consequence to expulsion from his University (Swansea) and the end of the ambition of his life. He was due to take his final exams, which would in the normal course of events have led to a degree in biology. He would then have begun whatever training one needs to do to become a forensic scientist. All that, now, has come to an end. His life is wrecked.

One’s first reaction to this story was that this young man needed swatting, hard; he needed to be taught a lesson. But to effectively ruin his whole life for what he had done? There was surely something way over the top going on here. As the Independent’s columnist Musa Okwonga put it:

56 days. Liam Stacey got drunk, trolled people on Twitter who were fearing the death of Bolton Wanderer’s Fabrice Muamba, and has been sent to jail for 56 days. Something feels excessive about this.

Let’s make no mistake: Stacey’s conduct was about as reprehensible as you’re likely to find online. He publicly mocked a man whom he believed to be dying. He then attacked those who opposed him with racist epithets. He caused untold distress to hundreds, possibly thousands of people, and District Judge John Charles considered that he had encouraged others to do the same.

But, but, but. 56 days in jail still seems like too much of the wrong sentence. My gut reaction, when I first read of the judgment, was that a very stiff community penalty would suffice. Perhaps Stacey could have been made to work the type of hours in the type of places that refugees work. Then he might have understood better their daily burdens, which hatred like his only serves to increase. That, combined with the adverse publicity that accompanied his trial, would probably have sufficed.

Liam Stacey has not, it goes without saying, come out of this affair well. But one or two other people haven’t, either, including the Leeds psychiatric nurse who helped wind him up by calling him a “f****** pr***”. But someone who comes out of this worse even than this angel of mercy (the saints protect me from ever falling into his/her tender psychiatric care: O Lord, keep me sane) was the judge in this case. This is what district judge John Charles actually said in sentencing Stacey: “Not just the footballer’s family, not just the footballing world, but the whole world were literally praying for Muamba’s life. Your comments aggravated this situation. I have no choice but to impose an immediate custodial sentence to reflect the public outrage at what you have done.”

The whole world was literally praying for Muamba’s life? Is there not something excessive about these judicial obiter dicta? As David Aaronovitch commented,

I read those words and at first thought they were a bit over the top …. I reread them and felt they were slightly worrying. The third time I read them, I decided that they were both wrong and ridiculous. In what possible way could Stacey’s stupid and nasty comments be said to aggravate the situation of Fabrice Muamba’s health — which was surely the situation referred to? Would they stop Muamba’s heart beating? Prevent him from waking up from a coma? And how can a judge have “no choice” over sentencing simply because of “public outrage”? Of course he had a choice. He chose to propitiate the fashionable gods of outrage.

That’s what worries me the most: the notion of a judge handing down a severe sentence “to reflect the public outrage”. It is precisely NOT the duty of a judge to pander to public opinion in this way. It is his job to hand down a sentence which reflects ONLY the objectively assessed seriousness of the alleged offence. Suppose Patrice Muamba had not been a well-known footballer, but a little-known local politician, say a black Lib-Dem councillor against whom Stacey had issued offensive racist tweets because of his views on, say, global warming. There would have been no public outrage. So presumably his sentence would have been lighter? Of course it would. Indeed, he probably wouldn’t have been charged in the first place. What this sentence shows, apart from a worryingly inhumane lack of any sense of proportion, is a populist corruption of the judicial system itself.

Now that really SHOULD worry us.

  • nytor

    Indeed: he’s a secular heretic. You say something “racist”, or “homophobic” or “sexist” – and yes, these can include things which are ordinary Christian teaching such as “gay marriage is impossible” or “abortion is wrong” - and you are descried as a secular heretic and set upon by the baying, howling mob. People can be and have been sacked for expressing views which are entirely mainstream Christian teaching.

    Now, I know the comments of Liam Stacy were not acceptable, but the reaction to them is in the same vein. “He’s committed secular heresy! Burn him! Burn him!”

    Partly I think this is because no-one wants to be thought guilty of the same “thought-crimes”. That seems to be partly the rationale for the judge’s comments, and I should not be surprised if it drove the severity of the sentence. Imagine a light sentence. Imagine the outrage. “He only gave him a community sentence! Racism in the judiciary!”

    This what we’re up against. I say we, because it applies to Christians every bit as much as anyone else who commits secular heresy.

  • ForsythiaTheMariner

    Disturbing on many levels. Is there no right to free speech in the U.K? I ask this sincerely, as I’m puzzled someone could be imprisoned over a tweet that didn’t threaten to kill anyone, but rejoiced at someone’s possible death. Is his action utterly reprehensible, drunk or not? Absolutely. It’s disgusting. But I agree that he would be better off (and so would the world) if he were to be forced to do community service (maybe for two years), helping refugees. 

  • Bill Young

    People (and the judge) seem to be confusing the original tweet with the subsequent racist remarks.  His tweet about Muamba was not racist.  There are few among us who has not said they wished someone dead, without actually intending more than to emphasize their emotion.  His subsequent remarks seem to result partly from goading by others.

    Very worrying that someone can be sent to jail and thrown out of University for what he did.   

  • McAbby

    The right to free speech in the UK, together with other freedoms, is melting away like snow in spring. Essentially you can say whatever you like provided it is something ‘acceptable’ – something adequately in tune with the fashion of the day.

    Those who have no knowledge of European history – historically a ‘right’ of free speech has always been exceptional – can look at North Korea if they wish to know where this kind of intolerance is going to lead. Or they could look at the Cross.

    The proposiiton that “hard words break no bones” was recently upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court in the case of Snyder v. Phelps – all about displaying insulting placards at soldiers’ funerals – but we can be confident that there too opinion will soon become co-ordinated and corralled into ‘acceptable’ little sound-bites.

    I certainly dare not give an example here – or in the presence of any strangers – of my various traditional, old-fashioned, intolerant, out-of-date views (if interested, you will find some in the catechism). I am certainly not such a fool as to use Twitter or facebook- facebook entries last forever, I believe, and who knows what will become ‘unacceptable’ in the future, even if it has not crossed that ill-defined line yet? “Careless talk costs lives.”    

  • JohnBoye

    This whole episode is an indication of just how sick our ‘society’ is. Mr Stacey’s remarks are indeed insensitive and may well have upset some of the sad souls who inhabit the twittersphere. His choice of words is particularly distressing – is this level of articulation really that of a university student? So, let’s consider one possible explanation for the ‘incident’. He had been drinking all day – hey, he’s a rugby player! – and, possibly as a reaction to the ludicrous amount of coverage given to this unfortunate football player’s predicament, attempts what he may (remember, he is drunk, and a rugby player) consider to be irony. I must say that while I have sympathy with Muamba and wish him a speedy recovery I too was angry with the coverage. Are there not more significant matters for week-long headline national news? If ‘we’ are so concerned to root out every last trace of ‘racism’ from our multicultural paradise then let’s widen our focus a little. Here are some suggestions: rap lyrics; church, mosque and synagogue sermons; Jewish school curriculums; Sikh temples; Masonic lodges. The list is – literally – never-ending and that is what should be worrying you. Not the inane rantings of a drunken, rugby-playing student. Without any legal intervention this thicko would have, in the cold hungover light of day, realised his stupidity and would have been shunned or ridiculed by all but the thickest of his peers. Suspension from university and a prison sentence? Insane!

  • Seangough

    I agree that the punishment was excessive, but you seems to be implying that he didn’t do anything wrong – please correct me if im wrong! . I don’t see any connection between his comments and critisms the stances that we take as Christian on issues such as abortion, and gay marriage. His motivation was grounded in neither love or truth. His remarks were completly horrendous. Racism is completly contrary to christianity, and there is no form of just discrimination on the basis of race because there is essentially no difference between races.

  • Ridiculous

    Wait wait wait, so they arrest and jail Stacey for his racist remark, but do nothing to the person who said “greasy little welsh sheep shagger”??

    Excuse me, anyone know where I can find these tweets, because that my friends, is just as racist!

    They can’t jail one and not the other, or are we to start considering racial discrimination from the Police and High Court?

  • Carl_hartley

    The sentence was appropriate. Perhaps this will send a message to others who would act in the same manner, this will not be tolerated, this will not go unpunished. If his life is ruined then he did it to himself with his vile comments. Too often this society accepts behaviour like this with little or no punishment. Finally, a judge has the sense and vision to see the larger picture.

  • aearon43

    Going to be a lot of people in prison then if every ill-considered drunken outburst is worthy of 50 days jail time.

  • aearon43

    I’m American, and this kind of thing isn’t going to happen here anytime soon. Very few people would think this deserves any legal response at all — as the Supreme Court decision you mentioned indicates. To be honest, I was unaware that this kind of thing was even illegal in the UK. (I spent a couple years there in the military — good thing I watched my words!) Do you know what law exactly covers it? Hate speech or something like that?

  • http://www.catholictruthscotland.com/ EditorCT

    It just amazes me that everyone is at pains to denounce what Stacey said/wrote and to suggest an alternative punishment. 

    Am I alone in feeling deeply concerned that we can be arrested, charged, tried, convicted and jailed, for expressing an opinion?  However outrageous, however rudely?  Drunk or sober?

    Then how come Richard Dawkins hasn’t been charged for telling his “reason rally” to mock Catholics?

  • Parasum

    “”Inhumane” punishment” ? The trouble is that “inhumane” is a word with associations – trampling someone to death by elephant is inhumane; forcing them to eat faeces is inhumane; electrocution is (arguably) inhumane. “Disproportionate to the offence”, perhaps.

    The trouble with the sentence for that offence, is that it tends to make much greater crimes difficult to punish. What happened to Baby P, or Victoria Climbie, or to too many other children in recent years, is arguably rightly called “horrendous”. How will it be possible to punish cruelties against the weakest in society with a severity proportionate to the offence, if this offence, which involved no bodily harm, is described in terms more appropriate to the babarities of the Shoah ?  One of the problems we have today is that language is immoderate – slight achievements of no permanent value to anyone are praised with an extravagance that would be excessive if applied to the work of a Michelangelo; language appropriate to the very worst of crimes is routinnely used for rather trifling offences. How will the gresatest of crimes be describable, if the language for using them has been worn out describing much slighter offences ? Conversely, if first-degree murder can attract a mere ten years or so, with a prospect of parole before then – how will much slighter offences be punished ?

    The odd thing is that the re-action to the offence has been moralistic – not moral. It’s not based on any coherent principle, but on a negative one: such behaviour is not acceptable. This is no guide for life, because it does not tell one what one is allowed to do. Such a content-free morality is apt to have its content filled up any old how, on a whim. This may explain the harshness of the re-action to Stacey’s acts.  

  • Parasum

    I find this whole affair disturbingly reminiscent of the hysterical silliness that swept people away in 1997, after the death of Princess Diana. The baying of the mob (that is what they are, a mob) and the harshness of the sentence  seems to be a smaller dose of what happened in 1997. This whole thing is an excellent illustration of how, as Theo Dalrymple has noted more recently, “sentimentality is poisoning our society”: 
    “Raoul Moat’s victim mentality was typical of the misplaced sentimentality that
    is poisoning society, argues Theodore Dalrymple.”

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/crime/7894907/Sentimentality-is-poisoning-our-society.html

    His article is one of many on this theme, and it deserves reading. 

    Another face of this sentimentality (in Dalrymple’s sense) is (IMO) the mindless euphoria that swept so many people, especially bishops, away during and after V2. Neither sentimentality  is wise or just; both are senseless & harmful. Neither sentimentality has any boundaries – both are very impatient of criticism.  The Churches are no more immune than society at large.

  • ms Catholic state

    Well would you have foul rants against Catholics punished by imprisonment too?!  You mustn’t have read the things that are said against practising Catholics.  It would make your hair stand on end. 

    To me this was a vindictive mean punishment and I felt for Stacey.  Yes, what he said was nasty and stupid but no more than that.  Let’s not have a witch hunt against him or then we are no better than him. Seems the hate is flowing freely in more than Stacey! 

  • JohnBoye

    In America PC is a little more subtle. Try saying something ‘unconventional’ about Israel or the power of the Jewish lobby and see how long it takes for your employment contract to be terminated. You’ll then find yourself persona non grata. Dissent is not tolerated.

  • W Oddie

    Where do you think I imply that stacey did nothing wrong? Have you actually READ my article?

  • Brian A. Cook

    Oh boy.  Here we go with the “anti-Zionist” rants.  I learned much about “anti-Zionism” from the ADL and the Wiesenthal Center.  The reality of “anti-Zionism” is not pretty. 

  • https://openid.org/locutus LotucusOP

    I think we all have to come to terms with the fact that there’s no freedom of speech in Britain. Freedom of speech, by its very nature, exists so people can say things which are offensive to many. Otherwise we could all cry “offence!” and end any discussion.

    What the guy did was an affront against common decency, against the moral codes of a socially cohesive society. The U.K. is not socially cohesive, and has no moral code, and it would be difficult to see how exactly this drunkard’s comments aggravated any situation, so even on that argument it’s incoherent to given him any sentence, never mind bring him to court in the first place.

    The best thing to do would be to get rid of all hate-speech laws – with the possible exception of those which directly incite violence, and even that thought scares me since ‘incitement’ is a term which can be used very loosely.

    It used to be that when drunkards or incoherent idiots started talking, we ignored them. That’s tolerance at its core: Ignoring views with which you don’t necessarily agree.

    One thing is clear….Nobody came out well in this situation, and the ‘justice system’ came out worst.

  • https://openid.org/locutus LotucusOP

     You are not alone.

    The guys deserves no punishment whatsoever for his views – regardless of whether or not we agree with him.

    It’s just that your country – and the rest of Europe along with it – is going crazy.

  • https://openid.org/locutus LotucusOP

    Oh, yes….The buzz words “appropriate” and it’s evil twin “inappropriate”. The modern world can’t even get itself to use the words “right” and “wrong”.

    If his words echo his sentiments, why exactly would you want to stop him expressing them?

    He didn’t hit anyone, didn’t steal from anyone, and the only people who got upset were those idle enough to go and read what he wrote. It is not exactly as though he wet to a vigil being held for the player and started screaming hateful words. Although I hasten to add that if he had done that at a vigil he would probably have got away with it scot-free.

  • Mark Nel

    This Judge failed miserably in his duty to behave as a judge, not an enraged member of the public. As did the University he attended. 

  • http://www.catholictruthscotland.com/ EditorCT

    Too true. World gone crazy but double-standards continue to prevail.

    Here in Scotland we have just had two men on trial for conspiracy to murder three people connected to Celtic Football Club (which in Glasgow-speak means they’re Catholics, albeit not necessarily of the traditional, fully believing variety.)

    The two men had sent devices to each Celtic/Catholic person intended to explode – i.e. bombs.

    Towards the end of the trial, the other day, the charges were reduced to assault charges.

    When did you ever hear of anyone being assaulted with a bomb?

  • Eesa1980

    He (apparently) did this because he was drunk.  Shouldn’t those who sold him the alcohol hold some of the responsibility just like we hold responsible drug dealers for crimes committed by heroine and crack abusers (such as shop lifting and robbery etc to fund their habit)?

  • Robert

    Dr Oddie, I think you will find Seangough was replying to nytor, not to you.

  • CELESTINE ST CLAIR

    I am really shocked at the reaction to this sentence by so many people on this site. As a Traditional catholic i read the herald blog all the time but i am really saddened to see
    the attitude expressed here.Why are you all comparing racism to the gay marriage
    debate and the abortion situation? Can we help the colour of our skin? where is the
    love that true catholics are supposed to have? And where was the outrage when even
    harsher sentences was meted out to the rioters? were not their lives ruined too? some
    one only stole a bottle of water i believe and was jailed.I think you will find that in Our
    Blessed Lords eyes this young man’s behaviour is ffar less pleasing than the person
    who stole the bottle of water. And how you ask do i know this? because he acted out
    of hate and we all know the scripture; you can give your body to be burned at the stake
    but if you have not love it profitteth you nothing. Think on my friends. you all professs to hate the Liberals and the vat 11 crowd- i myself do not agree with liberals but these
    people can teach you all a thing or two about love!!!

  • http://www.catholictruthscotland.com/ EditorCT

    Celestine,

    It is absolutely unreasonable to conclude that anyone here condones nasty personal racist remarks, just because we disapprove of the resulting legal process in this particular case.

    I said very clearly in my original post that no matter how unsavoury, wrong etc. this young man’s remarks, it is ridiculous to put him in prison. His whole career is now in ruins. All because of a stupid drunken rant.  People have abused children and not been jailed.  People get community service for a lot worse than name calling.

    Were you never taught by your mother that “sticks and stones may break your bones but names will never hurt you”?   We should concentrate on jailing those who throw the sticks and stones, and find ways to show our disapproval of the name-callers short of expensve law suits and prison sentences.

    If you are saying that you are happy to risk being  arrested, tried, convicted and jailed for expressing your opinions, put in jail for insulting someone, then you are effectively saying that you are happy to be living in a police state.

  • https://openid.org/locutus LotucusOP

    I must admit I’m at pains to see where I compared this thug’s behaviour to anything else. Could you please point it out?

    Sentencing this guy to prison has nothing to do with showing love. It has, however, everything to do with excessive control of speech and opinions.

    There is nothing good about racism – it is evil to the core – and it is fair to say this you man is not on an express train towards sainthoo. However, the issue at stake is whether posting a few comments in the privacy of one’s home – which you might not genuinely even mean at the time – should be enough to send to have the police knocking at one’s door, never mind being sent to prison.

    In a country which claims free speech and freedom of opinion, the answer should be a resonding “no”.

    I have not even commented as to whether he should have been allowed to graduate. My opinion of that is that if the university was public, he should have been allowed. If it was private, then it’s up to the trustees to decide whether he has broken their rule of conduct.

  • Patrick_Hadley

    Dr Oddie says that the judge was wrong to pass a severe sentence “to reflect public outrage”, and thinks that taking into account the reaction of the public is a corruption of the judicial system itself.

    In fact judges have always taken into account public outrage when deciding sentences. To some extent the amount of public outrage against a crime is at the heart of all sentencing decisions. If a crime is on the statute books, but generally speaking the public is not too worried about it, then a judge will take that into account when deciding the sentence. For example the possession of a single joint of cannabis could be punished by five years in jail – but in most places you are unlikely to get more than a warning. On the other hand when there is a great deal of public concern about a crime a heavy sentence will be imposed.

    A priest, no long dead, about forty years ago pleaded guilty at the magistrates court to sexually abusing five altar boys. He was fined £250. Nowadays he would be sent to jail for a very long time for the very same crime. The wickedness of the offence has not changed in that time, but what has changed is the public outrage caused by it.

    The sentencing council publish guidelines to judges which can be read online. In the guideline on “seriousness” you can read this: “Some conduct is criminalised purely by reference to public feeling or social mores. In addition, public concern about the damage caused by some behaviour, both to individuals and to society as a whole, can influence public perception of the harm caused.”

  • Molly

    If I could like this 1000x I would!!! I knew freedom of speech was more constrained in the UK (I’m from the U.S.) but I had no IDEA things were this bad. What is happening to this world? A neighboorhood watchman shoots an unarmed black teen over here and remains a free man, while a student in the UK is vulgar on the Internet and is sent to jail. What is going on here?!?

  • Thinker21

    This article was spot on. I don’t agree with racist comments but it seems that Facebook and Twitter have already become domains where users are free to insult and abuse each other verbally whilst hiding behind anonymity. Liam Stacey should have had his Twitter account terminated and been issued a warning by the police. It should have remained a private incident and the judge should not have pandered to public opinion in order to come to his decision. 

  • Patrick_Hadley

    No.

    Firstly about 35 million people in the UK drink alcohol every week without it causing them to commit a crime. If someone misuses alcohol and it affects his behaviour that is his fault,  not that of the person who sold it to him. You might as well blame the sellers of cars for dangerous driving or the makers of kitchen knives if someone is stabbed by one.

    Secondly we do not hold the sellers of illegal drugs responsible for the crimes committed by those who buy them. If caught they are punished for the crimes they have committed, not those committed by their customers.

  • W Oddie

    OK: but he hasn’t read nytor (who said “the comments of Liam Stacy were not acceptable” either, it seems.

  • Honeybadger

    And this Liam Stacy personage was studying Law at University.

    God help the judicial system! I wouldn’t ask this… this … to represent my budgie in a court of law!

    Where in heaven’s name did he get the money to buy all that booze? I thought students were skint – they moan and whinge and march down our streets often enough about their student loans and stuff!

    I’ve heard it say that drunks show their true colours when they’ve been on the pop – so, how could this spoilt little brat claim he was ‘joking’ when he realised the justifiable angry reaction to the fecal matter he published, no matter whether it is a footy player or a victim of a heinous crime?

    It’s the classic excuse from a bully who’s been caught!

    He could say sorry… unfortunately, he won’t be let live it down, even if he demonstrates that he is contrite.

  • CathedralMan

    EditorCT expresses her outrage at Richard Dawkins encouraging people to mock Catholics for their beliefs, and then, on her own Catholic Truth blog, opens a thread inviting other to do the same with Dawkins.

    On her blog, comments on Dawkins include

    ‘He’s a halfwit, bore, who has escaped from a lab somewhere. ‘

    Double standards and hypocrisy for Catholic Truth and EditorCT? Surley not! Hold the front page!

  • http://www.catholictruthscotland.com/ EditorCT

    CathedralMan – as is his custom – thinks nothing of lying about Catholic Truth and about me, personally.  He has something of an obsession about us.

    That he is speaking falsehood (and since what I actually said about Dawkins is out there for all the world to see) it seems fair to presume that he is deliberately lying.

    Check it out for yourself – note my 12.05 post where I say that whether we like or loathe Dawkins we should, in charity, pray for him.
    http://www.catholictruthscotland.com/blog/2012/03/professor-richard-dawkins-mock-catholics/

    I would add to that prayer list the scoundrel CathedralMan – who, as one of the Catholic Herald bloggers emailed to tell me last time he hounded me on a blog, “is not as he presents himself”

    Hardly breaking news.  We know a tad more about CathedralMan than he would ever guess.

  • CathedralMan

    EditorCT

    Don’t be a tease. Tell us all you know about me. Or is that just a the usual bluff and obfuscation?

  • http://www.catholictruthscotland.com/ EditorCT

    “Bluff and obfuscation”?  You’ll never know, chuck!

  • CathedralMan

    Just as I thought. Lots of hot air, but nothing substantial behind it. Perfect description of CT and EditorCT.

  • http://www.catholictruthscotland.com/ EditorCT

    Shucks, thanks.   

  • Letsgoright

    The sentencing guidelines you mention come under the category of “harm”. The example they give is the supply of drugs and its harm on the community. So that is not the same at all.

    Where is the harm to the community from a few offensive remarks on Twitter?

  • Patrick_Hadley

    Offensive words can certainly cause harm, and the law has long recognised this. Long before the internet the Malicious Communication Act made it a crime punishable by up to six months for anyone to send by post or telephone messages such as those written by Stacey. Why should someone be jailed for a “poison pen” letter which is only read or heard by one person, but not jailed for the same words when read by thousands? If Stacey’s sentence makes the world of Twitter a less vile place by dissuading people from posting disgusting messages then the sentence will have achieved some good.  

    Judges’ decisions about outrage are subjective: sometimes they get it right, sometimes they get it wrong. My reason for posting on this thread was to contradict Dr Oddie’s false statements at the end of his article. While the rightness of Stacey’s sentence is a matter of opinion, it was simply false for Dr Oddie to imply that judges should not take public outrage into account. Considering the public’s reaction to a crime is a normal part of the process of sentencing.

  • Letsgoright

    The guidelines for a custodial sentence under the Malicious Communications Act mention that the victim must have had “substantial fear or distress”.

    Have you read the childish, name calling (vulgar and offensive, admittedly) that Liam Stacey posted? It would hardly cause substantial fear and distress to anyone.

    If someone had posted that my dad is a “rapist” and that I am an “aids-ridden ****”, I would have thought it was a juvenile attempt at humour.

    This is what I can’t understand; why didn’t the judge take into account that this was an immature 21 year old? He was 21 going on 10!

    Regarding public outrage, I think the judge was caught up in the hysteria of the events surrounding the football player. So it was an emotional judgement based on his heart rather than the law and justice. 
     

  • Dmitry

     “He’s a halfwit, bore, who has escaped from a lab somewhere’- that’s excellent description of Dawkins!!

    I’ve read hat CTS, and Editor does not encourage people to mock Dawkins.
    She reprimanded the fellow who posted that.

  • Dmitry

    Sorry I meant ‘that’ not ‘hat’

  • http://www.catholictruthscotland.com/ EditorCT

    Thank you Dmitry.  CathedralMan is so used to getting away with his nasty falsehoods about Catholic Truth that he has dropped his guard by alleging something that is so easily checked out – a mere click away. Thank you for checking it out. 

  • Psawyer1257
  • Myboyjack

    It is now May 2012, the offender has just been released from prison, which is why i went searching for information on what he actually said. Which is how i ended up on this site. I am totaly amazed to find such an intelligent discussion about the case. And from a Catholic site. Which i find even more amazing than the fact that a person in the UK can be jailed for an opinion, drunk or otherwise. Very much an ‘eye’ opener!.

  • Glennfa

    He was not “expressing an opinion”, he was giving vent to a cruel, racist rant, which is illegal!

  • http://www.catholictruthscotlad.com/ EditorCT

    Well, then, answer the question in my earlier post – why was  Richard Dawkins not arrested and charged for telling his (misnamed) Reason Rally to mock Catholics?

  • Monicamerkel

    Just wait – when Mr Cameron has finally got rid of all the poor people, he’s going to set up a Ministry of Thought …